July 1 Art Minute: Chuck Close, “Alex”

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Chuck Close (American, born 1940), Alex. Oil on canvas, 1987. 100 ¼ x 84 inches. Gift of The Apollo Society, 1987.218. Gallery 2 (Wolfe Gallery)

Chuck Close (American, born 1940), Alex. Oil on canvas, 1987. 100 ¼ x 84 inches. Gift of The Apollo Society, 1987.218. Gallery 2 (Wolfe Gallery)

Inspiring first awe and then intimate scrutiny, Chuck Close’s large-scale portraits draw attention to process as well as image. Working from photographs, Close imposes a grid—which is left visible—to enlarge and transfer the image onto canvas. Viewed from a distance, the thousands of small painted squares optically blend into an illusionistic portrait, but separate into abstract markings at close range. In Alex, artist Alex Katz’s unique features project an intense, almost aggressive, personality. However, since Close emphasizes factual, visual information and process, the painting’s emotional power is more a byproduct of the technique, monumental scale, and iconic frontality of the image than of any intended psychological interpretation.


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