Chuck Close @ White Cube


Over 150 images spanning the last 40 years are currently adorning the White Cube’s walls. These prints comprise huge portraits which stare out at you. They are hyper-real, lifelike and unidealised. They are so realistic they look like photographs. But they aren’t.

Portrait artist Chuck Close suffered a spinal aneurysm in 1988 yet looking at his paintings you would have no idea. A survey of four decades of work is on display at the White Cube. Each of the works is a portrait in varying forms. Prints, lithographs, mezzotints and more are on display. Some portraits have been comprised of thumb marks, others are made out of tapestry. Some are black and white, some in colour.

These works have been touring the United States for the past decade and it is easy to see why they are so popular. Among the faces on display are well known personalities such as Philip Glass and fellow artists Roy Lichtenstein and Zhang Huan. Each sitter is someone the artist knows personally, some of which just happen to be famous. You would have a good friendship with the artist to sit for him as the images show every detail. Close does not ‘beautify’ his images, they are photorealistic, if you want a wrinkle painted out that is not going to happen. His works are strikingly honest and true to life.

Where the show really excels is in its explanation of how the works are made. There are videos of Close’s work with a team of master print makers. Here acknowledging that he employs a collaborative process in order to make his art, where most artist’s do all that they can to hide this. This allows the viewer to see how the artist thinks. We are shown grid patterns and the tools used to create etchings, engravings, japanese wood block prints, silkscreens and collages. Close has played with the oldest and newest techniques.

These ‘heads’ as Close chooses to call his portraits are definitely not to be missed. Not only do we see over 100 impressively realistic prints but are given an understanding and demonstration of an artist who is not afraid to utilise a variety of techniques.

Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration is on display at White Cube Bermondsey until 21 April

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and has written for After Nyne, Arteviste, Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed Magazine, ReOrient and Suitcase Magazine. Lizzy is also curator of Arab Women Artists Now - AWAN 2018 (London).

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