Chuck Close’s uneasy, inevitable legacy

Chuck Close’s uneasy, inevitable legacy

Chuck Close’s life as an artist divided into three distinct phases — two successful, one not. From 1967 to the end of 1988, he was a celebrated painter, a singular kind of photorealist known for enormous grisaille portraits of intimate friends and family (and himself, perhaps his favorite subject) rendered on a pencil grid with watered-down paint and an airbrush. His work was immanently desirable. Museums and private collectors started vying for it even before he had his first solo gallery show in New York in 1970. It had the instant pow of pop art — indeed the artist had stated his desire to knock people’s socks off. But it also had the haughtier, more conceptual imprimatur of post-minimalism, arguably the last avant-garde art movement of classic modernism. He was equally admired by the cognoscenti and the public. The artist himself projected an impressive authorial persona. At 6-foot-3 with a deep voice, a quick
Chuck Close’s life as an artist divided into three distinct phases — two successful, one not. From 1967 to the end of 1988, he was a celebrated painter, a singular kind of photorealist known for enormous grisaille portraits of intimate friends and family (and himself, perhaps his favorite subject) rendered on a pencil grid with watered-down paint and an airbrush. His work was immanently desirable. Museums and private collectors started vying for it even before he had his first solo gallery show in New York in 1970. It had the instant pow of pop art — indeed the artist had stated his desire to knock people’s socks off. But it also had the haughtier, more conceptual imprimatur of post-minimalism, arguably the last avant-garde art movement of classic modernism. He was equally admired by the cognoscenti and the public. The artist himself projected an impressive authorial persona. At 6-foot-3 with a deep voice, a quick