Thursday, October 7, 2010

Chuck Close at the Corcoran

I managed to see Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration at the Corcoran before it ended, and I'm so glad I did. It was amazing. I've seen other Chuck Close exhibits in the past, but never one that focused specifically on his prints and printmaking process.

Close said he wanted to do this exhibition to demystify the process, "so that people understand how things happen." It was fascinating to see prints at each stage of development, after each layer of color, as well as the tools used to create them, from hand-carved wood blocks to hand-forged metal paper-pulp grills. And there was such variety in the types of prints represented: woodcuts, silkscreens, etchings, mezzotints, paper-pulp collages.

I have so much respect for Close as an artist. I've always loved his portraits in every medium; the large scale and perspective make facial features appear almost as hills and valleys in a landscape. His use of color is brilliant. But I learned something new about him recently that made me look at his work from a different angle: he has prosopagnosia, or face blindness, meaning his ability to recognize facial features is impaired. I saw him in an interview recently where he said that although he didn't know the name of his condition then, he's certain his prosopagnosia had a lot to do with his decision to focus on portraits early in his career. He can memorize a person's features in a two-dimensional photograph and recognize them, but in real life, if a person facing him turns her head a half an inch to one side or the other, it's a completely new face to him. Isn't that fascinating?

Although this exhibit seemed to be all about process and collaboration, it was actually more about seeing, how Close sees his subjects and how viewers see his work.

(Source: Max Cook)

(Source: Max Cook)

Here's a video that shows a bit more of the exhibit.

Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration from Corcoran Gallery of Art on Vimeo.

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