People change jobs all the time, particularly in publishing, but this week someone who I have worked closely with since I started at OUP is leaving. I asked Dan Ozzi to do one last thing before he left, write a blog entry. He choose to talk about one of his favorite artists who is featured in The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists by Ann Lee Morgan. The dictionary is a wealth of information, with 945 alphabetically arranged entries contained in one-volume. Below are Dan’s thoughts on Chuck Close.
From afar, his works don’t seem like anything spectacular. If you saw one of his prints in a book or on your computer monitor, you probably wouldn’t be all that impressed. Most of them are just large portraits. But if you are able to get within 2 feet of one of his works, you will immediately understand why Chuck Close is one of the most meticulous and innovative artists around today.
The Oxford Dictionary of American Arts and Artists ranks him as one of the principal artists of the photo-realist movements, which it defines as “a form of representational art based directly on photographs, rather than the observation of nature”. Close produces editions in several print media, including mezzotint, etching, woodcut, and screenprint. Each inch of which is an eye-jarring piece of a larger grid. Some of these prints are made up of colored scribbles, blocks, and specs. Some of his portraits, most of which are of his friends(for which he refuses to accept commissions), are composed entirely of fingerprints.
The keyword to describe Chuck Close is “process”. Looking at his works, the viewer is instantly aware of the amount of time each piece took to compose but also that these pieces are much less about finished products than the effort that went to into them. They are static captures of tireless efforts in perfectionism. Close himself once said, “I am going for a level of perfection that is only mine…Most of the pleasure is in getting the last little piece perfect.”
And to consider that Close has accomplished all of this after a nearly fatal collapse of a spinal artery left him almost completely paralyzed just makes him that much more extraordinary of an artist.