Chuck Close had a childhood marked by a medical problem that made it difficult for him to engage in strenuous activities. One alternative he found was the production of backyard magic and puppet shows. He also spent many hours drawing, wholeheartedly supported by his parents, who sent him to art classes as well. When Close was eleven, his father suffered a fatal stroke; his mother continued to encourage him to pursue an artistic career.
Close attended community college in Everett, Washington (1958-1960), where his career goals changed from commercial to fine arts. In 1960 he transferred to the University of Washington (B.A. 1962). His success there led to an invitation to the Yale Summer School of Music and Art in Norfolk, Connecticut (1961), and graduate work at Yale's School of Art and Architecture in New Haven (B.F.A. 1963, M.F.A. 1964). Fellow students included Jennifer Bartlett, Rackstraw Downes, Nancy Graves, Robert Mangold, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, and Brice Marden. Close studied at the Akademie der Bildenen Künste in Vienna on a Fulbright Fellowship in 1964-1965. He accepted his first teaching position at the University of Massachusetts, where he began to shift from the organic forms, arbitrary color, and abstraction of his student years to the photographic vocabulary and large-scale compositions of his mature style. He has also taught at the School of Visual Arts, New York University, and Yale Summer School of Music and Art.
In 1967 Close moved to New York City and executed his first black and white painting: a large-scale nude based on photographs he had made in Massachusetts. Between 1968 and 1970 he painted several black and white portraits based on photographic images of friends. At the end of that period he reintroduced color into his paintings by applying the principles of the photomechanical color process. With photographic portraits as a constant, Close has explored a wide variety of media, including colored pencils, watercolors, pastels, oil paint, photography and film, and various print-related media including paper pulp.
Close first experimented with etching at Yale, where he served for a time as Gabor Peterdi's assistant. At the urging of Bob Feldman of Parasol Press, he created his first professional print in 1972, working with Kathan Brown at Crown Point Press, San Francisco, he produced Keith, the first work in which he revealed the grid system he had been using to translate his photographic images. In addition to Graphicstudio and Crown Point Press, Close's printmaking activities have included making lithographs at Landfall Press in Chicago and Vermillion Editions in Minneapolis as well as handmade paper editions with Joe Wilfer, published by Pace Editions, Inc., New York.
Important one-man exhibitions include those organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1971), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1972), Laguna Gloria Art Museum, Austin (1975-1976), Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1979), Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1980-1981), Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (1987) and the Art Institute of Chicago (1989). Exhibitions featuring his works on paper include those held at the Edwin A. Ulrich Museum, Wichita State University, Kansas (1975), the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (1985), and the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio (1989). (Fine/Corlett 1991, 153)
Finch, Christopher. Chuck Close: Life. Munich, Berlin, London, and New York, 2007.
Finch, Christopher. Chuck Close: Life. Munich, Berlin, London, and New York, 2010.