American painter Chuck Close is among the most successful living artists today. His photorealist paintings, most of which are portraits of himself and close friends, often from the art world, present his sitters through meticulously rendered imagery on a surprisingly large scale. His works encourage viewers to confront identity and the paradox of familiarity and mystery of human connections.
Close was born in Monroe, Washington, with a neuromuscular disorder and dyslexia; the combination of physical and learning disabilities made schooling complicated. His prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness, makes it impossible for him to recognize or remember faces, perhaps an early impetus to produce portraits. Close received his BA from the University of Washington, and his MFA from the Yale School of Art, where he studied with Richard Serra, Janet Fish, Jennifer Bartlett, Robert Mangold and a number of other artists from his generation, many of whom populate his portraits. Over time, he began to experiment with grid structures within his paintings, using rectangles of mediated color; when seen from afar, the grid becomes a clear image of the sitter, an evolution of Seurat’s experimentation and development of Pointillism. In 1988, Close sustained a seizure and damage to his spinal artery which left him paralyzed and bound to a wheelchair. He continues to work using a brush strapped to the arm of his chair, and a device that allows him to control the movement of his canvas.
Close received the New York State Governor’s Art Award in 1997 and the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton in 2000. In 2010 President Obama appointed him to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, from which he resigned in 2017, with a letter signed by many of the committee’s members addressed to Donald Trump, “ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions.” He has been the subject of over 150 solo exhibitions in addition to retrospectives at major museums around the world including at the Reina Sofia, Madrid; the Schack Art Center, Washington; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York – a show curated by Kirk Varnedoe. His works have sold for impressive prices, including Phil, which sold for $3.2 million, and John for $4.8 million, both at Sotheby’s. His works can be found at major international museums including Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Tate Modern, London; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.