Chuck Close


    As the 120-odd portraits in Chuck Close’s full-scale retrospective found their places on the walls of New York’s Museum of Modern Art this February, Brooks Adams visited the installation in progress and talked with the artist and the show’s curator Robert Storr about the work, its development, and the issues surrounding its presentation. Photographer Tina Barney shot the proceedings for Artforum. And, in the essay that follows, art historian Richard Shiff provides a critical overview.

    BROOKS ADAMS: So we’re opening with the big grisaille portraits from the late ’60s and ’70s, right?

    CHUCK CLOSE: Uh-huh. This is the earliest painting, 1967–68—Big Self-Portrait.

    BA: Is this where you feel your work begins?

    CC: Well, I did a nude just before this which I consider part of my mature work. We thought for a while about putting it in but decided just to stick with heads.

    BA: How did you decide against the nude? I mean, it was the most surprising image in the catalogue.

    ROBERT STORR: The only place we could have put it is on the balcony overlooking the garden. The interior spaces wouldn’t

  • Golf War

    IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE, after knowing Ray Johnson for twenty-five years, that I’ll never again receive something in the mail to add to and send on to someone else, or hear his voice on the phone asking me some trivia question about a marginal movie star.

    In 1991, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I curated a show of portraits culled from the museum’s collection. In one of my regular telephone conversations with Ray I said I was sorry MoMA didn’t own one of his portraits because I would love to put one in the exhibition. We talked about getting a collector who owned one of his pieces to give


    A LOT OF THE CRITICS working today seem to have lost the ability to describe, or never to have developed it. This may in part be because they depend on the photographic reproductions that accompany their articles to convey surface information and iconography—or perhaps they just aren’t interested, period. Particularly at a moment like this, every artist should have the experience of seeing his or her work described by Adam Gopnik, at least once in their lives.

    It isn’t just that Gopnik is a wonderful wordsmith, who slams sentences together in the most remarkable way: he is uniquely good at


    AFTER YEARS OF IRONIC DENIAL that his work is part of the tradition of portraiture, Chuck Close has embraced the genre. When New York’s Museum of Modern Art invited Close to organize an exhibition, some two and a half years ago, he chose to select portraits from their collection. Now, in a project for Artforum, he has once again curated a gallery of portraits, this time culled from the collection of another New York institution—the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    On the following pages Close has arranged a selection of 48 images, by artists ranging from Bronzino to Warhol, in full-page grids, suggesting

  • He Called Me Chuck

    THE REASON I use Chuck Close as my professional name is the accidental by-product of Phil Leider’s somewhat hang-loose administrative style while he was editor of Artforum. In the late ’60s my name always appeared in print as Charles Close. Then Cindy Nemser conducted an interview with me for the January 1970 issue of Artforum. She sent in an untitled transcript with “C.C.” representing my words and “C.N.” hers. The photographs that would accompany the piece, taken by a then student of mine at the School of Visual Arts, arrived at Artforum in an envelope marked simply “Chuck Close.” No one