Self Portrait 2004-2005 102 x 86 inches Oil on canvas
He’s been called the “reigning portraitist of the Information Age.” He creates jumbo-size faces on canvas (8 or 9 feet high), copying them from photographs. They are painted in a dotted faux pointillist style. In 1989 Close suffered a stroke, which left him paralyzed from the neck down. Gaining partial use of his hand with a brace, he learned to paint all over again. — Introduction to an interview with Close by Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air” March 5, 2004
Prosopagnosia: Sometimes known as “face blindness”, prosopagnosia is a disorder where the ability to recognize faces is impaired. Renowned portrait artist Chuck Close has it. In the PBS News Hour interview below, Close reveals that he feels he has been compelled to do portraits as a way to help him remember the important people in his life.
Close first became famous as a photorealist. The detail put into each work is phenomenal. Even when seen in person, it is almost impossible to distinguish one of his paintings from a photograph — a decidedly eerie experience we can attest to.
John 1971 Acrylic on gessoed canvas 100 x 90 inches
In 1988, Close suffered a spinal artery collapse that left him a quadriplegic. Eight months later, he was painting again using a brush held between his teeth. With this new work, Close left realism for a pixelated take on photographic portraiture.
In the PBS interview, Close also discusses how these portraits are the result of taking individual pieces of “information” to make a whole — a rather good definition of mosaics, no? Thinking of his work in mosaic terms is almost automatic. There is the “tesselation” of same-sized segments and he does create the texture and reflectivity found in mosaic materials in those exquisite details of circles and lozenge shapes. It’s as if Close creates a visual code of dots and dashes in sequences that our eye effortlessly translates into the people he loves. And one can feel the love.
The work itself requires an almost superhuman level of effort. Close now paints with a brush strapped to his hand,