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Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration

July 30, 2006 – October 8, 2006

installation view of the Chuck Close Prints exhibition, showing rows of framed artworks displayed on walls and a large artwork in a thick platform or frame on the round
installation view of the Chuck Close Prints exhibition, featuring framed artworks on several different walls in a gallery space
installation view of the Chuck Close Prints exhibition, featuring framed artworks on several different walls in a gallery space
installation view of the Chuck Close Prints exhibition, featuring framed artworks on several different walls in a gallery space and a large artwork on a platform

Overview

Chuck Close, an acclaimed American painter, began making prints in 1972. Since then he has continuously produced works in a variety of print media, all of which he considers primary forms of expression. This exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s groundbreaking innovations and achievements in printmaking. Including approximately 100 prints, it documents the creative and often highly experimental ways in which he has elaborated upon the signature subject of his paintings—monumental close-ups of the human face. Close begins with a photograph of his own making, previously realized as a painting or drawing, and may interpret and reinterpret it in different printmaking techniques over the course of years.

In its comprehensiveness, Chuck Close Prints demonstrates how the artist—in collaboration with his master printers—has challenged the boundaries of mezzotint, etching, aquatint, lithography, silkscreen, linoleum cut, and the Japanese and European woodcut. The unusual inclusion of progressive and state proofs, as well as actual woodblocks, etching plates, and other print matrices, gives insight into the range of Close’s artistic processes.

Making images of faces for more than thirty-five years, Close at an earlier point used the term “head,” suggesting a complicated relationship to works that are titled by first names only. The heads are those of friends or family—or very often himself. Like the paintings and drawings, his prints show that his interests are formal and conceptual. Close is engaged with how scale, texture, marks on paper, and color inks affect perception and our awareness of the artist’s creative choices. At the same time, his preoccupation with process as a source of meaning in its own right is also a basis for the making of images of great psychological immediacy. Close considers a face to be “a roadmap of human experience.” To this extent, his work falls within and extends the realm of traditional portraiture.


Exhibition Support

Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration was organized by the Blaffer Gallery, the Art Museum of the University of Houston. The exhibition and publication have been generously underwritten by the Neuberger Berman Foundation. The exhibition was made possible, in part, by major grants from the Lannan Foundation and by Jon and Mary Shirley, and by generous grants from The Eleanor and Frank Freed Foundation, and Houston Endowment Inc. Financial support has also been provided by Jonathan and Marita Fairbanks, Dorene and Frank Herzog, Andrew and Gretchen McFarland, Carey Shuart, and The Wortham Foundation, Inc., with additional funds from Karen and Eric Pulaski, and Suzanne Slesin and Michael Steinberg, and Texas Commission on the Arts.

The Wisconsin presentation of Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration has been made possible by generous funding from the Madison Print Club; Miller Brewing Company; Jan Marshall Fox and Don Bednarek; the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation and the Overture Foundation; Daniel Erdman; Hausmann-Johnson Insurance; the Terry Family Foundation; the Madison Arts Commission; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin; and the Art League of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.