The remarkable career of artist Chuck Close extends beyond his completed works of art. More than just a painter, photographer, and printmaker, Close is a builder who, in his words, builds "painting experiences for the viewer." Highly renowned as a painter, Close is also a master printmaker, who has, over the course of more than 30 years, pushed the boundaries of traditional printmaking in remarkable ways. Almost all of Close's work is based on the use of a grid as an underlying basis for the representation of an image. This simple but surprisingly versatile structure provides the means for "a creative process that could be interrupted repeatedly without damaging the final product, in which the segmented structure was never intended to be disguised." It is important to note that none of Close's images are created digitally or photo-mechanically. While it is tempting to read his gridded details as digital integers, all his work is made the old-fashioned way - by hand. Close's paintings are labor intensive and time consuming, and his prints are more so. While a painting can occupy Close for many months, it is not unusual for one print to take upward of two years to complete. Close has complete respect for, and trust in, the technical processes - and the collaboration with master printers - essential to the creation of his prints. The creative process is as important to Close as the finished product. "Process and collaboration" are two words that are essential to any conversation about Close's prints.
PUBLICATION EXCERPT FROM DEBORAH WYE, ARTISTS AND PRINTS: MASTERWORKS FROM THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK: THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, 2004, P. 238.
"Chuck Close is celebrated for his monumental portrait paintings in which sitters stare out at viewers with uncompromising gazes. Although identified by name, these subjects reveal none of the nuances of individual personality found in traditional portraiture. Instead, Close focuses on his working procedures—the "means" rather than the "ends" usually associated with this genre.
It is the visual effects of translating a photograph into a painting that Close exploits in endless permutations. Translating still further into printmaking offers even more variables to stimulate his creativity. He has completed approximately fifty-five prints, working in numerous techniques. These editions have allowed a broad audience to have access to his work, a fact that Close appreciates since his painting process is lengthy and results in relatively few canvases.
Close's active engagement in printmaking began with his first print, Keith/Mezzotint, created in 1972. This project came about at the instigation of publisher Robert Feldman of Parasol Press, who arranged for Close to work with master printer Kathan Brown at Crown Point Press. So as not to be intimidated by the printer's expertise, Close rather perversely selected mezzotint, a long-out-of-favor and laborious technique that would be as much of a challenge for Brown as for him. When his constant trial proofing wore down the markings on the plate around the mouth, Close decided he liked that exposure of his process and went even further by allowing his grided guide to show through. From that time on, a grid has often been visible in his work in all mediums. Such fruitful collaborations with printers, and the impetus of invigorating new techniques, have repeatedly fed back into Close's work as a whole and made printmaking essential to his overall artistic practice."