Chuck Close: Then and Now

Chuck Close, May 1, 2009. Author: Sotolux Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

The Who performed at last week’s grand opening of giant new Chelsea headquarters of the Pace Gallery. They were chosen for their ability to remain relevant and strong, like the gallery and the art it exhibits, for decades.

The new building on West 25th Street has eight stories of galleries, offices, party rooms and private terraces. The mega gallery cost over $100 million to build and is a testament to the strong art market that has kept the Pace Gallery going since it was founded in 1960.

Chuck Close has worked with the gallery since 1977. Other artists and celebs, like Claes Oldenburg, Willem Dafoe, Luke Wilson, Wes Anderson and Maria Sharapova attended the opening.

For Close, it means space that can accommodate many of the large works that he creates.


When the Pace Gallery opened, Close was attending the University of Washington in Seattle. During the summer of 1961 he won a scholarship to the Yale Summer School of Music and Art. After receiving his BFA from the University he was accepted to Yale, where he completed his MFA in 1964. A Fulbright Grant took him to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Close taught at the University of Massachusetts when he returned to the U.S. and then settled down to paint, full time, in SoHo, in 1967.

His educational career was extraordinary, not just because his talent was recognized and rewarded, but because of the hurdles he had to overcome to get the recognition he deserved.

Close was born in Monroe, Washington 1n 1940. His father died when he was eleven. He was raised by his mother, who taught piano, in Everett, Washington, in a house next door to his grandparents.

Close was born with dyslexia and a neurological disorder that inhibited the movements of his arms and legs. He struggled as a student and found it difficult, if not impossible, to participate in games with other children. He made friends through his art, giving puppet and magic shows. The year before his father died Close missed the entire school year because he was stricken with nephritis. In addition to his other physical problems, Close suffered from prosopagnosia, or face blindness, a cognitive disorder that impedes one’s ability to recognize faces…even one’s own.

Chuck Close self portrait woodcut

Chuck Close
Self-Portrait, 2015
84 color woodcut
Image size: 35 1/2 x 29 1/2 inches
Paper size: 47 1/4 x 37 inches
Edition 5 of 70
For sale at the Surovek Gallery

Incredibly, Close used his disability to his advantage. He began to paint portraits, faces of people he knew but couldn’t recognize, using a grid. “It’s just like a mapping device.” he said. “It locates the area that you’re going to make decisions about. Think about if there were no state divisions in the United States. How would you describe where Salt Lake City is? It’s sort of in the lower, left, middle — It becomes very difficult. The minute you say that it’s Illinois you now know which section of the map you’re thinking about. All my work has been incremental from the very start.”

In 1972, Close began expanding his work to printmaking, using mezzotint, woodblock and then to tapestry and photography.

A seizure in 1988 left him paralyzed from the waist down. He remains wheelchair bound, but is still able to paint, using a brush strapped to his wrist.

86thStreet: Chuck Close, Subway Portraits Photo: Ralph Bunche (CC BY 2.0)

In 2010 Close was commissioned to create a dozen mosaics for the New York City Subway.

…and now

Close divides his time between two studios in Long Island and a studio in the East Village. He has been an advocate for, and representative of, portrait artists like Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith and Zhang Huan.

The Works of Chuck Close at the Surovek Gallery

Please contact us if you would like more information about the works of Chuck Close available at the Surovek Gallery.

See Chuck Close Artwork in Our Gallery

Ben Widdicombe. Art Crowd Flocks to Pace’s Giant Gallery in Chelsea. The New York Times. September 18, 2019.
2021-06-01T14:42:37-04:00 September 19th, 2019|

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