Exhibition – Chuck Close: Prints, process and collaboration

It’s late to write about this exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney (link). It closed a week or two ago, I went to a talk by curator Terrie Sultan last November and have lost my notes… still, a couple of thoughts I want to capture.

chuck_close_01Building up an image
It was fascinating to see the process of printing exposed.

This is Self-Portrait/Scribble/Etching Portfolio 2000 – 12 plate proofs, 12 progressive proofs, and the final work. Meticulous method. The slightest marks (and spaces) are significant in the final.

On the left of the image is an oil pointing by Close, Emma (2000). On the right, Emma (2002), a 113-colour hand printed ukiyo-e woodcut, printer Yasu Shibata.

Throughout his career Close has collaborated with others, often printers. He listens to people, inspires them, will trust them, will take risks, will push them.

A larger image of the print and some of the plates is below.

chuck_close_06Breadth and Depth
A wide range of techniques had been used in the various works. Close’s oil paintings, plus mezzotint, silkscreen, aquatint (spitbite), ukiyo-e prints, pulp paper, hand stamp – and here, fingerprints.

Leslie/Fingerprint (1986) is direct gravure, a type of etching. To quote the exhibition signage: “Close fingerprinted [Leslie’s] face on a translucent sheet of Mylar. That image was then applied to a photosensitsed surface, bitten with acid, and printed. Shades of light and dark were controlled by how much pressure the artist applied with his fingertips”. Again the collaboration, but also the inventiveness and openness.

The “depth” is how much can be found in front-on closeups of faces. Often the same faces used again and again using different techniques. But the depth isn’t in exploring the psychology or personality of the apparent subject.

In a large image (almost 1.5 m high) of a woman’s face, the work seems to me more about the artist whose fingerprints form the image. Like many of the prints shown, this forcefully asserts the handmade in what could otherwise be perceived as a mechanical process of printing. It asserts the presence of the artist.

Or rather, lack of emotion.

On the right is Roy (2011), described as a jacquard tapestry. I’ve inserted a photo showing how large the work is, and how close we were able to get to it.

I have expectations of textiles. To me cloth brings the potential for multiple associations, to be charged with emotion, to cry out to be touched … This work feels like an intellectual exercise – more that’s interesting, let’s see how far we can push the technology, let’s see how the image changes, how it responds to this different technique.

Clearly viewers found it fascinating, drawn close to the work. I found it fascinating, but I don’t think it made me feel or see something new or unexpected emotionally. Feeling the lack has helped me think more about what I want/expect from textiles.

2 Responses to “Exhibition – Chuck Close: Prints, process and collaboration”

  1. 1 Weekly roundup 10 April 2016 | Fibres of Being Trackback on April 10, 2016 at 8:51 pm
  2. 2 Weekly roundup 5 June 2016 | Fibres of Being Trackback on June 5, 2016 at 6:24 pm

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