An artist looking for trouble“ (Chuck Close)

Phil/Fingerprint 2009 at white8 SHOWROOMS 
(Photo: Peter Kusstatscher)

Actual and Invented Realities



As one of the most important founders of the Photorealism the artist is presented at the summer exhibition of 2012 with featured prints of recent times.

The solo exhibition is running from July 29 until Sept 30, 2012
open daily 10 – 12 am

Some people wonder whether what I do is inspired by a computer and whether or not that kind of imaging is a part of what makes this work contemporary. I absolutely hate technology, and I’m computer illiterate, and I never use any labor-saving devices although I’m not convinced that a computer is a labor-saving device.*


Chuck Close is one of the leading figures of the Photorealism. His large-scale black and white canvas Big Nude (1967) has been the work which founded this artistic movement. The Photorealism celebrated its international breakthrough in 1972 at the

dOCUMENTA 5.  While Chuck Close explores the limits not just of the painting technique, but also of photographic and print technique, he never produces his works digitally or photomechanically. The first time the artist succeeded in translating a Polaroid image into a painting he was using a grid structure. Since then he has imitated photography virtuously with his accurate painting technique which penetrates into the smallest details. He has made some genuine features of photography, like blur and other special effects of photographing to stylistic characteristics of painting. Thereby, Chuck Close has got photography a step closer to its long time most aspired target of being accepted as art. But at the same time, he has confirmed the leading position of traditional art of painting.                              

The subject matter of the artists’s works, most of which are portraits, is not so much the imitation of photography in order to understand the painting by using a grid structure, but the exploration of the technique and process of seeing. On the basis of halftone dots Chuck Close has developed a completely new way to depict reality. He dissolves his portraits into a pattern structure of colored rings and concentric circles that are melting to the photorealistic image from the distance. (In particular in Self Portrait, 2004, on view at white8 SCHOWROOMS) His technique of “fingerprint” has also become renowned for the overlapping layers of finger prints that create a realistic image from the distance.

Apart of paintings Chuck Close produced groundbreaking prints made by using the “fingerprint”-technique. (In particular in Phil/Fingerprint2009, on view at white8 SCHOWROOMS) His prints are even more labor-intensive and time-consuming than his monumental canvases. While the finishing of the latter requires several months, the process of creating prints can last from conception to edition two and more years. In making his prints Chuck Close collaborates with print masters that are eager to experiment.

Through print making Chuck Close works out new solutions that again and again lead to stating new problems. For that reason, he describes himself as an artist looking for trouble.** Each time Close approaches a print, the making is different, and so is the visual experience. His interpretation of his iconography over time results not so much in similarities as in differences, as if each image were the artist’s first take or initial perception. Close recycles images. His subjects repeat over and over. We become familiar with Phil (Glass), Keith (Hollingworth), Leslie (Close), Alex (Katz), and of course the artists own visage. But in many ways Close’s familiarity with the portrait subject is beside the point. Beyond the physical resemblance inherent in any portrait representation, his print images fascinate because they reveal how they were constructed. The litograph Phil/Fingerprint , the pulp-paper Phil III and Phil Spitbite are all based on the same photograph, yet each time Close addresses the image of Phil, he blurs on the certainty of achieving a definitive depiction.***  


Chuck Close was born 1940 in Monroe (Washington State). He graduated in painting from University of Washington in Seattle and at Yale University School of Art and Architecture in New Haven. In 1967 he received a fellowship at Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. After that he moved to New York. Chuck Close had his first solo exhibition in 1970, after that over 200 international solo exhibitions and 800 group exhibitions followed, among others dOCUMENTA 5 (1972) and dOCUMENTA 7 (1977). In 1990 he was granted with the 6th Annual Infinity Award of Art by the International Center of Photography. In 1993 he received an honorary doctorate.

Dagmar Aichholzer has already showed works of Chuck Close 2008 and 2010 at the white8 GALLERY in Vienna. 

Lucas Gehrmann

* Cuck Close for the exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York (26 Feb – 26 May 1998). 
** Terrie Sultan, Introduction. Chuck Close Prints, in: Terrie Sultan, Chuck Close Prints. Process and Collaboraton, Princeton University Press, Princeton, Blaffer Gallery, the Art Museum of the University of Houston, Houston 2003, p. 10.

***  Sultan, Introduction. Chuck Close Prints, p. 15. 

translated by the white8 GALLERY

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9500 Villach