Chuck Close (American, b. 1940)
Self-Portrait/Scribble/Etching Portfolio, 2000 © Chuck Close, courtesy Pace Gallery

Chuck Close (American, b. 1940)
Detail from Self-Portrait/Scribble/Etching Portfolio, 2000
Portfolio of 12 state proofs, 12 progressive proofs, and 1 final signed print Soft-ground etching 18 1/4 x 15 1/4 in. Edition of 15, Pace Editions, Inc., New York, printer (Bill Hall, Julia D’Amario, Jessica Miller, Kathy Kuehn) Pace Editions, Inc., New York, publisher Private collection, courtesy of The Heller Group © Chuck Close, courtesy Pace Gallery

Closer: The Graphic Art of Chuck Close (Lecture Galllery)

September 28, 2013 - January 26, 2014

One of the great modern masters of printmaking, methodical yet always inventive in his approach, American artist Chuck Close Chuck Close continues to follow the bold trajectory he set for himself nearly five decades ago. The prints in this show feature his work Self-Portrait/Scribble/Etching Portfolio, 2000.

Nearly three decades after first using the color separation process in his dye-transfer prints and acrylic paintings, Close finally devised a printmaking process by which he could “break a drawing down into its component colors and put a piece of that drawing on a different plate.”

Pushing the limits of the medium to make an intaglio print in twelve colors as opposed to the usual upper limit of six, Close used twelve different colored pencils to draw scribble lines in slightly different patterns, using a projected image as an aid. Multicolor etchings require a separate plate for each color, each printed on top of the last, which in this case required the assistance of four printers and entailed printing three colors a day for four days.

The completed portfolio is composed of a final editioned print along with twelve state proofs (twelve single-color plates) and twelve progressive proofs (plates printed in sequence as each color was added during the printing process). The final print reflects the steady accretion of these marks as they were built up cumulatively, from warm to cool tonalities.

In 2000 the scribble marks represented a new undertaking for Close. Applied irregularly in different lengths and densities, they form a delicate, interwoven net of colored threads that verge on abstraction. The overall pattern recalls Close’s hatch-marked conté drawings of the 1970s and bears an affinity with Georges Seurat’s Neoimpressionist drawings.

The portfolio is also significant in that it provides a gentler and decidedly more accessible portrait of the artist using the three-quarter view he had recently adapted for his self-portrait of the same year , as well as in portraits of Cindy Sherman (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago), Jasper Johns (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), and Lyle Ashton Harris (Whitney Museum of America Art, New York).

Yet it also marks a departure from previous prints in terms of its intimate scale and expressive potential. “I really wanted to fill the rectangle with a face, a soul,”5 the artist has said of the incremental units in this work. Their impact in the aggregate is greater than the sum of its parts.

Closer: The Graphic Art of Chuck Close is accompanied by a generously illustrated catalogue by the same title. A lecture series and film series also complement the exhibition.

Educational programming is generously underwritten by J.P. Morgan.