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Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration

Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration

The Chuck Close exhibition at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam comprises 130 portraits printed in various media between 1972 and the present. Some of these works have taken years to produce, no doubt because the artist and his team force themselves continually to master new materials and techniques, varying from mezzotint to pulp-paper collage and Jacquard tapestry.

By taking the visitor through all stages of production from initial concept to final portrait, the exhibition provides a fascinating peek into the artist’s kitchen – or studio, rather.

Lucas, 2011 (Jacquard tapestry)

Well-known for creating portraits of family (Georgia, 1982), fellow artists (Keith/Mezzotint, 1972) and himself (Self-portrait, 2000), Close’s focus on portraits is a result of the facial blindness from which he suffers, making it very difficult to recognise faces. Imposing a two-dimensional grid on a photographic image allows him to build a portrait cell by cell.

Keith/Mezzotint, 1972 (mezzotint), Courtesy of Chuck Close
Self-portrait, 2000 (111-color silk screen), Courtesy of Pace Editions, Inc. and Chuck Close

It is not surprising therefore that Close’s work is all about process. In an interview with Phong Bui (Brooklyn Rail, 2008), the artist states: “I always say that inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.” In his view, rather than sitting around waiting for inspiration, creativity is achieved by imposing limitations on yourself and the process you go through while trying to overcome these limitations.

The exhibition is thoroughly enjoyable and not just because there are a large number of quality artworks on display. The curators have succeeded in demystifying the process of making art and aptly demonstrate that good art is not churned out on a whim. Instead, much thought, time and effort goes into its creation.

Chuck Close, Copyright Vincent Mentzel

The exhibition, Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration, can be seen until 20 May 2012 at the Kunsthal, Museumpark, Westzeedijk 341, 3015 AA, Rotterdam in The Netherlands.