Chuck Close at The White Cube Gallery, Bermondsey.
Last weekend we met Wong at the rather fine and spacious White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey to see the Chuck Close exhibition of Prints & Portraits.
To say it’s the best art exhibition I’ve seen in ages would be an understatement. I’ve written about Chuck before here, about how he started out as a hyper realist portrait painter in the 1960’s, until a collapsed spinal artery in the late 1980’s severely restricted his movement and left him wheelchair bound, after which he had to reassess how he could continue and modified his techniques to suit his new condition.
The man is without doubt an inspiration and his work is truly stunning. Large in scale and varied in media, it focuses solely on the human face, how it’s made up, how it can be divided up and yet still retain its identity. Close is a master of colour, understanding how different, and often surprising combinations can create tones that we can easily recognise and organise in our minds as a face.
That this whole exhibition of over 150 works is comprised of maybe less than 10 different faces, is I would suggest to miss the point of what Chuck Close does. The image of Close himself in a rather fetching yellow anorak above, is offered as a photograph, a tapestry, and two or three other different styles of painting, and they all offer a unique visual experience, as in this close up of the dot version of the painting…
The tapestries especially are unbelievably lovely. There is a black and white image of a crazy haired and bearded man (Lucas) that once transformed into a tapestry, becomes a riotous celebration of colour, as can seen on the images below, the second of which is a close up of his beard believe it or not…
The things that Chuck does with paper mulch are also very impressive, creating layers of tone and depth that defy description. And as for the carved timber panels created to get the colour separation for the screen prints of the baby’s face, mesmerising (apparently it took a Japanese woodblock carving master the best part of three years to complete)..
As a big fan of the craft in art, I really enjoyed seeing all these constituent parts to the works, such as wire frames, square grids and hand drawn divided sheets marked up to show tones of grey. It’s always good to see a bit of process, as personally I think this gives the work more weight.
And whilst it could never be argued that Close makes all his own stuff (he’s wheelchair bound for a start don’t forget) it certainly comes across that his involvement at all stages of the work is intrinsic to its finished state. Unlike say the Hirst’s, Koon’s and Quinn’s of this world, who you get the impression just think of something sitting at their desk, commission someone else to make it and then sign it when it’s delivered to their studio.
Sadly the exhibition finishes this weekend, but if you can make it along, I would urge you in the strongest terms to do so, it’s a revelation and you will not be disappointed…