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Chuck Close (American, b.b. 1940)
Chuck Close is responsible for reviving and modernizing the painted portrait in a time when abstraction had superseded representational art in popularity. In 1962 Close was accepted to the Yale MFA program where he was trained in the contemporary art movements with a focus in Abstract Expressionism, a movement that influenced much of his early work. After a time, he decided his abstract expressionist work had become stagnant, and moved on to painting the human form. He began by painting nudes, but eventually settled upon facial portraits, a subject he was interested in due to a condition he was diagnosed with as a child called prosopagnosia, or facial blindness. This facial blindness made it difficult for Close to recognize or remember faces, and by flattening images of faces in paint and memorizing their details through a grid pattern painting approach, Close was better able to recognize the faces of his subjects. Close’s interest in photography and photo-printing processes have also influenced his portrait painting methods throughout his career. Close originally developed his gridded approach to painting by studying photography, and imitating the analytical approach a camera takes in constructing an image. When Close wanted to expand from black and white portraits to color, he again turned to photography and photo-printing processes; Close painted each gridded box with separate layer of cyan, magenta, and yellow as a printer would do to achieve the desired color. These methods have created an impressive body of portraits that have achieved international renown and been exhibited in venues such as the MoMA, White Cube London, and the Smithsonian. Close has continued to experiment with different methods and techniques and is currently branching into the tapestry medium.
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