Contessa Gallery Exhibition, Chuck Close: Radical Innovator, opens this Friday

CLEVELAND, Nov. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Contessa Gallery is pleased to present a solo-exhibition of important Chuck Close works in a variety of media. Working almost exclusively in the subject of portraiture, Chuck Close has been consistently breaking artistic boundaries with his printmaking for more than 40 years. The 39 works in this exhibition span Chuck Close’s career and will feature limited edition prints (including new revolutionary archival watercolor pigment prints and felt hand stamps, mezzotint, aquatints, etchings, linocuts, screenprints, woodcuts, and paper pulp works), photography (including unique Polaroid prints and daguerreotypes, woodburytypes, and gridded working maquettes), and large-scale Jacquard tapestries.

The highlight of Contessa Gallery’s Chuck Close: Radical Innovator exhibition will be Close’s Keith / Mezzotint. The first print made after Close graduated with his MFA from Yale, Keith / Mezzotint represents the artist’s radical innovation early in his career. It was with this print that Close decided that he preferred to leave his grid guide visible in his works, and more than four decades later, it still ranks among the most important and innovative prints of the twentieth century.

Collaboration with printers has been central to Close’s artistic process since early in his career. When master printer Kathan Brown was approached in 1972 to work with Close on the project, she was skeptical and explained: “The largest print we had done up to then was 22 x 30 inches…so of course I said it was impossible. Besides, who ever heard of an etching three by four feet!” The fact that a novice could master the demanding technique of mezzotint on first try and on such a great scale is incredible. Keith / Mezzotint was the largest mezzotint ever created, at the time. Furthermore, it was extremely innovative to take on mezzotint, which was in 1972 considered an antiquated technique. Close’s trademark photorealism is astounding in this piece, with the reflection of the flash in Keith’s glasses, the shallow focus and blurred edges, and the intricacies of face details which are evident in each square of the grid.

Keith / Mezzotint has been fundamental to all of Close’s subsequent work. The artist explained this significance in a recent interview: “The individual grid units stayed as discrete areas … After finishing Keith, I started doing dot drawings and other pieces in which the incremental unit was visible and ultimately celebrated in a million different ways. That all came from making this print.”

Keith / Mezzotint is the ONLY print that was ever given a “one print” show by the MoMA in NY, and eight of the fourteen works are in major museums.

Close’s self-portraits and portraits of his family and friends, such as composer Philip Glass and artists Cindy Sherman and Lucas Samaras, each begin with a photograph. Self-portraits take a central place in Close’s works. Over many years, he has been taking photographs of his own face every year and translating them into large paintings. This reflects changes in hairstyle, beard, and eyeglass frames, as well as aging, worldview, and attitude toward life. It is fair to say that Chuck Close will leave a legacy to the world of the greatest visual autobiography since Rembrandt.

The artist said of his work: “Any innovation that is evident in my paintings is a direct result of something that happened in the course of making a print.” Close is renowned for his ability to use each print medium to its full potential, and the new watercolor prints and felt handstamps in this exhibition are prime representations of Close’s continued experimentation and mastery of new techniques and technology. The individual watercolor marks in these prints have been scanned and placed digitally to create the face, before being printed in various single-color layers of watercolor.

Chuck Close has had numerous retrospective exhibitions, solo shows, and group exhibitions, and is featured in the permanent collections of over 65 museums, including the Carnegie Institute, Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; The Cleveland Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; MoMA, NY; National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.;  and the Whitney Museum of Art, NY. President Clinton awarded Chuck Close the National Medal of Arts and he currently serves on President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Chuck Close: Radical Innovator celebrates Close’s four decades of artistic innovation.