New York

Chuck Close

Whitney Museum of American Art

Although Chuck Close must be more intimately acquainted with the construction of the human face than any other artist of his generation, he is a portraitist decidedly uninterested in human character. His early gigantic, scrupulously modeled heads make Andy Warhol’s portraits look almost analytical, so deliberately stylized and objectified are they. As Martin Friedman, director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, tactfully says in one of the show’s catalogue essays, the most direct cause for this superficiality is that Close works not from life, but from uninteresting, bland photographs of his subjects. The photos themselves (though probably not the people) would bore us; but the facial imperfections in those photos, which are so manifest owing to the imposing size at which we see them, fascinate us, as the Brobdingnagians’ nostrils and facial hairs fascinated Gulliver.

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