Chuck Close

  • Yes, No, Maybe: Chuck Close /content/dam/ngaweb/features/exhibitions/yesnomaybe/CloseIntro/InstallationImages/YNM Entrance.jpg

    Yes, No, Maybe exhibition entrance with Chuck Close's Leslie, 1986, visible in first gallery

  • Yes, No, Maybe: Chuck Close /content/dam/ngaweb/features/exhibitions/yesnomaybe/CloseIntro/InstallationImages/Yes, No, Maybe Crown Point Press-010.jpg

    Chuck Close, Keith, 1972, installation view

  • Yes, No, Maybe: Chuck Close /content/dam/ngaweb/features/exhibitions/yesnomaybe/CloseIntro/InstallationImages/CloseJohnInstallation.jpg

    Chuck Close, John, 1972, installation view

  • Yes, No, Maybe: Chuck Close /content/dam/ngaweb/features/exhibitions/yesnomaybe/CloseIntro/InstallationImages/CloseLeslieInstallation.jpg

    Chuck Close, Leslie, 1986, installation view

  • Yes, No, Maybe: Chuck Close /content/dam/ngaweb/features/exhibitions/yesnomaybe/CloseIntro/InstallationImages/CloseSPInstallation.jpg

    Chuck Close, Self-Portrait, 2010–2013, installation view

  • Yes, No, Maybe: Chuck Close /content/dam/ngaweb/features/exhibitions/yesnomaybe/CloseIntro/InstallationImages/CloseSPJohnInstallation.jpg

    Chuck Close, Self-Portait, 2010–2013, left and foreground; John, 1972, right: installation view

For Chuck Close (American, born 1940), “self-imposed restrictions” and “severe limitations” offer a paradoxical form of creative liberation. He has maintained a rigorous commitment to interpreting a narrow range of subjects — his own head and those of his friends and family — in new and provocative ways. Working from photographs reminiscent of mug shots or passport photos, Close focuses not on the character or psychology of his sitters but on the physical details of a face’s surface. He explores how various artistic techniques can produce the illusion of a likeness. Process — of making and of perceiving — is central to his work.

Close has taken on a range of technical challenges at Crown Point Press: he tackled mezzotint, an outmoded and demanding process; translated a watercolor into a woodcut; and attempted to extend his tricolor painting practice into printmaking. He relishes “not knowing what you’re going to do, and having to solve a new problem.” This kind of approach has triggered profound breakthroughs — his projects Keith and Leslie foremost among them. But it does not guarantee success. This gallery also includes two photomechanical projects — John and Self-Portrait — that represent creative problems ultimately unsolved.

Banner image: Detail, Chuck Resting among His Images, 1972, Polaroid, photograph by Kathan Brown, Courtesy Crown Point Press

Next: Chuck Close, Keith, 1972