It would be easy to make the case that Chuck Close is the most important portrait artist of the 20th and early 21stcenturies. But in fact, he achieved much more. He took painting in an entirely new direction by painstakingly creating rigorous grids of autonomous shapes and colors that when viewed from afar form highly realistic images.
A conceptual artist first, portraiture become his vehicle of expression almost as if by necessity. Where he plays with ideas of scale and color, his restrictive painting techniques stems in part from prosopagnosia -an inability to recognize faces. Yet Close has never been content to rest on these portrait constructs as his only mode of expression.
In the holograms we have what may be the artist’s last frontier in a multitude of media he has come to explore. Close has called them ‘creepy’ and truly, their spooky fidelity can look as if he is practicing being a ghost. But there are plenty of associations in these spectral images that have little to with spooks and everything to do with themes of change, impermanence and the nature of reality.
The process of making these holograms is difficult. Lasers are refracted from mirrors onto chemically sensitized glass. The process is no longer available at any price and as Close has said, “I’m not sure I’d want to use it again if it were. I just wanted to run things through that process.” That comment fairly summarizes the incredible sustained impulse of his art.