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Chuck Close: Life Hardcover – April 1, 2010

4.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Conceived as a companion to the 2007 collection of images, Chuck Close: Work, Finch presents in this volume a more thorough traditional biography. Though an honored and prolific artist today, Close's road to success hasn't been glamorous. Plagued by learning disabilities and health problems throughout his youth, Close was encouraged to express his thoughts and feelings creatively and learned to faithfully trust the artistic process. He "showed a marked ability to depend on himself" and was able to create visual solutions to logical problems. These skills aided him greatly in receiving a Master's Degree from Yale and gaining recognition in the 1970s for his large scale photo realistic portraits (a term the artist dislikes) of friends and family. In 1988, following several occurrences of chest pain as well as a severe respiratory infection, Close suffered what he calls "The Event," a spinal stroke, which caused temporary quadriplegia. Through incorporating art into his physical therapy, he was able to regain the ability to paint. Close says art saved his life, but the book illustrates well his tenacity and persistence to overcome obstacles, with art functioning more as a companion than a savior. Photos.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Chuck Close: Work (2008), arts journalist and painter Finch, who has known the artist for four decades, focuses on Close’s paradigm-altering approaches to portraiture. In his second cornerstone volume, he tells the staggering story of Close’s life with the same meticulous attention to detail with which Close paints faces. Born in 1940 in Washington State, Close was burdened with dyslexia, neuromuscular problems, and, curiously enough, prosopagnosia, a perceptual disorder that interfered with his ability to recognize faces. From the start, Close, determined and fearless, knew that it was all about “maximizing his skills and minimizing his deficits.” Finch creates a fast-flowing, richly textured narrative covering every phase of Close’s evolution, following him to Yale as a proto-hippie abstract painter and to 1960s downtown New York, where Close and his wife, Leslie, were art pioneers. There Close realized that the human face was his great subject and that his approach would involve “brutal detail” and “monumental scale.” From the challenges of balancing family life and art to his prodigious discipline, creativity, and success to the cruel spinal stroke that left Close paralyzed from the neck down to his phenomenal return to painting from his wheelchair, this is an astounding and inspiring story of an artist of uncommon powers. --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Prestel; 1St Edition edition (May 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3791336770
  • ISBN-13: 978-3791336770
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 7.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #911,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ordered this book after seeing an interview with the artist and author on PBS Newshour. The book provides insight into the artist and the art world. It is a declaration of the power of the arts in our school system. Mr. Close's statement, "Yale or jail", brings home the point that higher education should be available to all.

I was interested in how Chuck Close developed his work and the struggles in finding his voice while keeping his beliefs in tact. This book provides inspiration and courage to anyone who has the vision to succeed.
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Format: Hardcover
I am very familiar with Chuck Close's work and have seen many of his works in person, as well as seeing him at a lecture about his work several years ago. He came across as a down-to-earth person with a strong work ethic, so I was interested to read this book and find out more about his life.

The book is very well-written and always engaging, chronicling his life from childhood in Washington state, to his rise in the art world in New York and the debilitating health "event" that changed his life. I found out about his family, the sometimes troubled relationship he had with his mother, his politics, and the long series of physical health problems he has continued to endure that would have stopped anybody else dead in their tracks. Close at times appears to have an ego as large as his paintings, but he backs it up with hard work and dedication through severe adversity that would put many, many other artists to shame.

The book also includes several examples of his work throughout his career, though the quality of the paper makes the reproductions look a little rough. This is one reason I'm not giving it five stars. The other is that the writer of the book is a friend of Close's and occasionally seems to be cheerleading for him, though his writing is always clear and his logic is well thought out.

This book would make a great introduction for anyone who would like to know more about Chuck Close as a person, and also how he works.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first learned who Chuck Close was when he was on The Colbert Report back in August--that night I ordered both Chuck Close: Work and Chuck Close: Life. Now three months later I finally got time to read the book, and I am very pleased I ordered it. Not knowing anything about Chuck or the art world in general, it was incredibly fascinating to have an inside look at other artists and how the art world operated(both from Chuck's perspective as well as the author's, who was an 'art world insider').

As another reviewer as said, the author is a friend of Chuck's and I do agree that he is at times boasting about Chuck's ability, but I don't think this necessarily takes anything away from the book. And probably, had the author not been a good friend of Chuck's, the book wouldn't contain the immense amount of personal information that it does, which adds a lot to understanding Chuck.

There was also a comment about the images not being of the highest quality; this is true, but Chuck Close: Life is meant to be a companion to Chuck Close: Work; the works shown in 'Life' are meant simply to show the change in Chuck's technique over the years. If one is looking to gawk over his work for long periods of time and intently study the images, probably 'Work' is where you should look. Sadly, due to business and laziness, I still haven't removed the shrink wrap from Chuck Close: Work, so I can't comment on the quality of the images in that book. One thing that I definitely noticed right away is that 'Life' is a very sturdy book--nice binding and big thick pages (no doubt Chuck saw to it that the book would hold up)--and probably the lack of image quality comes from the absorbency of the paper and it's cream color.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
And you thought YOU had a bad day in the studio.

If you've attended my Loosen Up Workshops you've heard me go on about my modern day painter/hero, Chuck Close. The latest book, Chuck Close: Life by Christopher Finch is an astonishing and inspirational book about his detailed life - how a major, successful, contemporary painter is upended by the traumatic collapse of his spine, leaving him a quadriplegic in seconds.

For most of us, our career would have been finished. But not Close. He continued to paint humongous-sized portraits of his close friends and family. His style and technique was before and still is today to paint "photo realism" (he hated the term) by painting small pixel-type squares of abstract color and designs only inches from his nose. But when you stand back twenty feet, the 10 foot by 15 foot canvas appears exactly like his large format Polaroid® photos that he paints from.

Throughout the book there are so many amazing facts that will make you stop for awhile and just reflect about the events you've just read... things like his name "Close." He can only see a few inches away and he has a medical condition that causes him to be unable to recognize faces. Unbelievable. And yet, he only and has always painted close to the canvas - only portraits - only faces from photographs. Today, he can move only just his hands with an attached brush. The canvas moves up and down - he does not move. And, he is painting his best work ever and continues his exhibitions in museums worldwide. Wow!

P.S. As an aside, interestingly while Chuck Close was going thru rehabilitation at the New Your City Rusk Institute, in the next room and at the same time was a young industrial designer (me) developing the first custom-contoured wheelchair seat for quadriplegics.
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