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Close Reading: Chuck Close and the Artist Portrait Hardcover – November 1, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Inspiration is for amateurs," according to Chuck Close, one of the most influential and pioneering figurative painters of our time, because "waiting around to be hit on the head by a lightning bolt, you get nothing done.... Ideas flow out of the working process, out of what you have already done." Friedman, former director of the Walker Art Center and longtime friend of Close, offers revealing details of the artist's life including excerpts from personal conversations between the two (friends for nearly four decades), an examination of how Close perfected the technique for his epic-scale portraits and discussions with 10 distinguished artists (and Close subjects) including Jasper Johns, Franceso Clemente and Kiki Smith. Using accessible prose, Friedman offers personal glimpses into everything from the atmosphere of Close's studio (a simply furnished, relaxed setting punctured by many interruptions from the outside world) to his blunt reaction to critics' attempts to understand the psychology behind his self-portraiture. "Close grandly finesses the personal issue by maintaining that all of his paintings, irrespective of their subjects, are in essence self-portraits," writes Friedman, who clearly has his doubts. This thoughtful and engaging tome on one of America's most influential and most collectable artists is a must-read for the collector, casual devotee and student.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Martin Friedman has served as a guest curator and advisor to a number of art museums since retiring as director of the Walker Art Center in 1990. During his more than 30-year tenure at the Walker, Friedman built a major collection of paintings and sculptures, created the world-famous Minneapolis Sculpture Garden adjacent to the museum, and originated numerous exhibitions of contemporary art. His friendship with Chuck Close goes back to 1969 when he acquired the now-iconic Big Self-Portrait from Close for the Walker's collection. In 1980 the museum organized the first Close retrospective, and in the mid-1990s Friedman began a series of discussions with the artist, out of which this book grew. He lives in New York.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810959208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810959200
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 1.5 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,826,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Martin Friedman has written and composed a book about his friend and honored colleague Chuck Close that reads as a fine biography. Friedman, previously with the highly regarded Walker Art Center and now an important art historian and curator for other museums, began his 'conversations' with Chuck Close in 1969 and grew into a close personal as well as professional relationship with the artist and this relationship is evident in the quietly detailed information about Close's well known bout with paralysis and subsequent recovery to the point of continuing to be able to paint. The quality of friendship is palpable.

But Friedman does not limit his writing to simply the personal issues that make Chuck Close a hero in the realm of overcoming tragic blows. This book, better than any of the other many volumes on this innovative artist, provides solid information on the development of Close's technique of producing vast canvases out of pixilated portions, explaining in fine detail how he approaches the portrait from inception through painstaking process, to completed work. No one has explained and illustrated it better.

Once Friedman has shown us process he then shares some of Close's important portraits of fellow artists such as Francesco Clemente and Cindy Sherman and accompanies these experiences with valuable illustrations of the works in addition to Friedman's own conversations with each of the artist models in a way that only a man who has the depth in contemporary art that Friedman can make informational and rational!

For this reader the most satisfying portion of this superb book is Friedman's discussion of the Self Portraits of Chuck Close, works that provided significant bridges between his struggle against physical challenge and emotional recovery.
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Format: Hardcover
I've been looking for a really good book on Chuck Close on and off for a number of years. None of the ones I'd seen before this really spoke to me. This book has good heft, looks and feel. It is approx. 8.25 x 10.5 x 1.75 inches,and heavy in a way that speaks of quality. It is about the perfect size to prop upon one's breast in bed and read over the course of a few nights.

The color reproductions are adequate, well-spaced, and entirely relevant to the underlying discussion even if one does wish for more and larger at times. This Abrams publication was printed in Singapore and stands as a refreshing reminder of what the Abrams Imprimatur once was.

It is likely an imagined memory but certainly an imaginable one that I reacted to my first exposure to Chuck Close similarly to the way that Close says he did to his first sight of a Pollack. On the other hand, Close's work is so immediate and approachable, not to say facile, that it is equally imaginable that I instantly appreciated it too, that very first sighting.

It occurs to one that this artist is, perhaps more than any, the perfect rendition of Post-Modern. He has taken something timeless and classic and made it modern. To wit, his portraiture is Classical and simultaneously Abstract and Figurative (and literal, too). I don't know his work well, but I know it well enough I think to place him along with Warhol and Lichtenstein (even with the faint question mark hovering above the latter's head).
In his work, Close demonstrates the truism, as practiced and taught by certain Japanese Zen sects that true freedom exists only when one has no freedom.
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