The Evolution of Chuck Close

To celebrate the opening of Guild Hall’s exhibition “Chuck Close: Recent Works”, Close joined dean of the Yale School of Art and critic Robert Storr—over two tall plastic cups of Scotch—to discuss developments in the artist’s practice. Their talk provided fresh insights into Close’s ongoing evolution and his current show of prints, paintings, and tapestries.

Close spoke with admiration about old and new technologies, from ancient weaving methods to innovative watercolors made with precise, digital control—necessary in light of the quadriplegic artist’s limited mobility. “I’m not interested in nostalgia, and I’m not interested in antiquarian activities for their built-in antique value,” Close said. “I’m interested because they’re not used up yet.”

Citing IBM’s early use of punch cards based on the original Jacquard loom, the artist stressed the connection between seemingly outdated techniques, like the loom, and today’s computers. “For me the ideal way to talk to the loom is with the computer because they share the same language and the same vocabulary.”

Close stressed the importance of his current prints (“I know my work is not going to be in every city in the world…so if someone sees a print, I want it to be a work of art that’s just as compelling, just as rigorously arrived at as a painting, because that might be all they’ll see”) and going back to basics (“I went back to painting 3-colored paintings, essentially red, blue, and yellow”).

And he closed by revealing his original influence: his grandmother. “I watched her crochet stars like Sol LeWitt… Then she would take those incremental units and she would crochet them together… So I’m talking to my shrink and I think Oh my god.”

“I can remember it as if she said it yesterday,” Close continued. “‘It’s not sweaters I like…It’s knitting I like.’ … It clicked with me that if you do an activity that you love, and you just keep doing it, eventually you get somewhere.”

Watch the full conversation and explore “Chuck Close: Recent Works.