How does Chuck Close use the photograph?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Like other photorealists, Close uses the photograph as a starting point for his creation of art.  Close is able to use the photograph to represent the basic element of his creation.  From this, he is able to construct his own interpretation of what is there.  Close uses the photograph in a Modernist way.  For Close, the photograph does not represent the end point, the statement of totality.  Rather, it represents a starting point, where the artist is able to take a statement of supposed transcendent answer and construct a new vision that prompts more questions and greater discussion.  For example, Close's work on Philip Glass was based off of a picture and then an artwork created in different forms and mediums, allowing an entirely new portrait or vision to emerge.  Close needs the photograph, but requires it not for a statement of absolute authority, but rather as the starting point to undermine it:

Chuck Close often worked from photographic stills to create paintings that appeared to be photographs. The everyday nature of the subject matter of the paintings likewise worked to secure the painting as a realist object.

In this idea, Close is able to bring out the basic modernist notion that reality is a construct of multiple shiftings in point of view, understanding, and perception.  The photograph is a part of that process for Close and others like him.


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