Friday, March 1, 2013

A Couple of Ways of Doing Something: Photographs by Chuck Close/Poems by Bob Holman

Chuck Close, self portrait, Jacquard tapestry.

"Far more interesting than problem solving is problem creation."
                             --- Chuck Close 

A Couple of Ways of Doing Something at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts with photos by Chuck Close and Poems by Bob Holman is first and foremost a collaborative art exhibit. The pairing of words and pictures is almost as old as photography itself. Bob Holman is a renowned American poet perhaps best known for being the co-founder of the Nuyorican Poet's Cafe. For more on Bob Holman see here [Link]. At the risk of shortchanging the collaboration in some of these works, this review will focus on the images.

Bob Holman and Chuck Close, inkjet print.
Chuck Close is an American artist born in 1940 to artistic parents. When he was 11, his father died, his mother had breast cancer and he suffered from a kidney infection that kept him in bed for a year. By that time it was clear he was dyslexic, and doing badly in school except for art. He earned his MFA at Yale, where abstraction was in vogue. His path veered towards photo-realism at the time. He worked with/from large format Polaroids, experimented with ink and color (which pointed the way to early ink jet printers!). By the 1970's he had become a prominent artist. In 1988, Close suffered from a ruptured spinal artery, which resulted in partial paralysis and confinement to a wheelchair. Close pressed on with his work, and his style became a more abstract. His work can be found in 65+ major collections around the world.

Chuck Close, "Andres", daguerreotype.
Besides the obvious rarity of seeing Chuck Close prints inthe Bay area, this is a very interesting show because many of the same images are shown in inkjet prints, daguerreotypes and Jacquard prints (more on those later).  The way these different media interpret the same images is fascinating.

We're all familiar with the inkjet print. It seems like the default/most conventional print. Almost "natural", though there's nothing natural about any of these 26 x 20 inch prints.

The fifteen daguerreotypes shown have a quality of their own, one many photographers are somewhat familiar with, seeing them exhibited. They also bring in the issue of size, since they're the format of the sheet film in the camera, about 8x10 inches, and viewing angle, to which they are quite sensitive. They have to be viewed up close and one-on-one. It is an intimate experience. They are shown lying flat on a shelf, each with a lid open at an angle to make the images visible.

Both by Chuck Close, Jacquard Tapestries.
At the large end of the scale size-wise, are the Jacquard tapestries. They're about 7x9 ft in size. They are made, like everything else, in China and woven in a computer-controlled loom. The salient quality of these tapestries is the unbelievably luscious and deep blacks. They have a pixel-like base to them, in that if you get close-up, the square weave becomes apparent. Note that these tapestries work like a pointilist painting. The threads are simply black and white. The range of tones is achieved via the weaving.

I checked, and these have been selling recently around the $135000 USD range. They require professional conservators for cleaning.

The differences in scale are as significant as the medium used to embody the image. One notices things in one that are diminished in another. With the large tapestries at the available viewing distance in the gallery, the faces are overwhelming, almost like standing too close to a billboard or mural. Get close and they deconstruct into formal components. One notices details and things like the the quality of the out-of-focus highlights. With the Daguerreotypes, these things recede, and the overall face can be seen with the central area of one's visual field. The Gestalt of the face becomes prominent. With the inkjets, that falls in between the other two.

This show is interesting on several levels: The combination of poetry and imagery, seeing work by Close, and seeing a great illustration on the qualities and limitations of any medium.

Congratulations to Chuck Close, Bob Holman and  FMoPA for a fascinating show.

--- Luis

Exhibition Dates:  January 31, 2013 – March 31, 2013
Opening Reception:  Thursday, January 31, 2013  6:00pm – 8:00pm
Lecture by Deli Sacilotto:  Sunday, February 3, 2013  2:00pm
Poetry Reading by Bob Holman:  Thursday, March 28, 2013   7:00pm
A Couple of Ways of Doing Something features fifteen of Chuck Close’s delicately intimate daguerreotypes (including striking enlargements) of leading contemporary artists, paired with Bob Holman’s witty and beautifully typeset poems. As individual portraits, each daguerreotype offers an intimate and immensely revealing study of the subject, extending the hyperrealist tradition of portraiture for which Close is renowned. In keeping with the exhibition title, Chuck Close, as curator, has included examples of his other works taken from each daguerreotype in a variety of media, including tapestries and photogravures. The collected work becomes a transfixing group portrait of Close’s influential and highly creative circle of friends and colleagues—from Andres Serrano to Cindy Sherman—as well as an exploration of challenging photographic mediums.
Exhibition organized by Aperture Foundation, New York.
Exhibition Sponsors:

1 comment:

  1. Hi Luis -- Close's tapestries are published by Magnolia Editions in Oakland, CA and are woven in Belgium -- not in China.