Beginning in the early 1980s Close began to move away from the photorealism that had defined his earlier portraits, attempting to deconstruct the image and reveal its anatomy, working in increments that together cohered to a whole. To call these works pixelated is both true and not true. In some of his earliest experiments, such as Georgia, 1982, a portrait of the artist’s daughter, Close squirted paper pulp through grills or cake decorators, creating an accumulation of molecular blob-like forms. In Lucas II, 1987, the discrete units of color, where clashing and complementary color fight it out to create a flickering effect, recall the brash, late 19th-century tonality of Van Gogh more than cyber-age pixels. In a portrait of Cindy Sherman, the increments are like a dot matrix print-out, recalling the Ben-Day dots used in newspaper prints, brought to the canvas most famously by Roy Lichtenstein.
Close’s frequent use of red, yellow and blue – the standard colors used in offset printing – further underscores his interest in analogue printing, not digital processes, as a counterpoint to the hand-craft of painting. On this topic, Close has said:
Some people wonder whether what I do is inspired by a computer and whether or not that kind of imaging is part of what makes this work contemporary. I absolutely hate technology, and I’m computer illiterate, and I never use any labor-saving devices although I’m not convinced that a computer is a labor-saving device. I’m very much about slowing things down and making every decision myself. But, there’s no question that life in the twentieth century is about imaging. It is about photography. It is about film. And it is about new digitalized things. There are layers of similarity, I suppose, that have to do with the way computer-generated imagery is made from scanning. I scan the photograph as well, and I break it down into incremental bits, and they can break it down into incremental bits.