Tag Archives: painting

The real Chuck Close

A diptych by Chuck Close: two portraits of artist Fred Wilson, painted in grids of pixels using layered glazes of transparent oil paint. The effect makes the paintings look almost like watercolor.

Chuck Close, “Fred/Diptych”, 2017-2018, oil on canvas, 36″ x 30″.

I was stunned to see this series of Chuck Close portraits painted in an almost watercolor style.

“These full-color portraits and self-portraits employ a palette of only three colors: red, yellow and blue. Layering transparent glazes of paint, Close created an effect of abstract likeness entirely different from that of his previous work. The complex color relationships that unfold in these paintings are visible at the bleeding edges of each square within the grid, where the ragged ends of each individual color are visible.”

A half-finished Chuck Close portrait of Michael Ovitz. A faint pencil grid on bare canvas is partly filled in with squares of transparent oil paint.  You can see from the incomplete squares that the artist started with a layer of magenta, followed by blue and yellow.

Chuck Close, “Michael Ovitz (Unfinished),” 2020-2021, oil on canvas, 72-1/2” × 61-1/2” × 2.”

When I started working on my “Big Wet Pixels” homage, I had no idea that the artist himself had spent the last few years of his life painting this way. Seeing these paintings now is bittersweet. It would have been wonderful to see what he would have done next had he lived long enough. But it’s also encouraging to see how many different interpretations are possible in this space. And that makes me want to keep exploring it.

The paintings will be on exhibit at the Pace Gallery in New York, from Feb 23 – Apr 13, 2024.