Chuck Close: Seven Portraits
On 29 February 2008, at the Winter Palace (halls 28-30 at the Saltykov entrance), eminent 20th century American artist Chuck Close (b. 1940) opened his first exhibition in Russia and the second show of the Hermitage 20/21 project. Chuck Close’s creative work emerges at the boundary of various techniques and arts – photography, oil painting, tapestry design – yet continues to develop within the space of one and the same art genre – portraiture. The interaction between aesthetics and techniques produces an artistic sense of intrigue that’s also reflected in the title: the show is called Chuck Close: Seven Portraits and includes eight works. The seven paintings are introduced to the audience by means of a trellis – a hyper-realistic self-portrait made with a Jacquard loom.
Chuck Close’s works are neither paintings nor photos. Having achieved photographic accuracy in the faces portrayed on his canvases from the 1970s, Close began to experiment with other ways of conveying reality. In the ’80s, he composed faces with colored and black-and-white spots; in the ’90s he made them of circles of various colors. During his work process, Chuck Close departs from his model as far as possible. Over several months, he translates a photograph once taken by him into a painting in a pixelwise manner, using various techniques. Among thousands of faces, the artist chooses those that are interesting to him artistically, as well as the faces of his family and friends, every detail of which he knows well. Close tends to work by series, each including six to eight paintings. After a stroke left him handicapped in 1988, Close started paintings with brush tied down to his hand. It takes him about two years to create a series of works.
The State Hermitage presents the artist’s most recent series of portraits, created between 2005 and 2007. These are the faces of Close’s family members, to which he has turned many times in earlier works, as well as a portrait of former US president Bill Clinton, Close’s family friend.
The exhibition has been organized with the help of the UK Friends of the Hermitage and assistance from the White Cube in London.
An academic, illustrated catalogue has been prepared for the exhibition. Its introduction is written by Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage Museum. The articles are written by Dimitri Ozerkov, Ingrid Sischy and Diarmuid Costello. The catalogue is published in English and Russian by Fontanka Press, London 2008.
Dimitry Ozerkov, a Senior Researcher at the Department of Western European Art, curated the exhibition.