Chuck Close

Fingerprint Paintings and Drawings, 1978-86

April 1 – May 27, 2016

Press Release

NEW YORK – An exhibition of Chuck Close’s early paintings and drawings will be on view at Craig F. Starr Gallery from April 1 through May 27, 2016. This exhibition will be the artist’s second with the gallery. Chuck Close: Fingerprint Paintings and Drawings, 1978-86 brings together 11 works on loan from the artist and private collections, and marks the first exhibition to focus exclusively on this series of portraits made between 1978 and 1986.

In the early 1970s Close developed a signature style of portraiture by building up a single type of mark – a dot, dash, or scribble – to various degrees within a grid. In 1978 he started to employ a new type of mark, dispensing with the artist’s “brush”, he used his direct fingerprint as the work’s constituent element. By applying different amounts of pressure to the surface, Close created his subjects’ faces out of subtle tonal relationships.

Close initially confined his fingerprints to the grid, each in its own box, but after growing disenchanted with the limitations of this strict format, he began to experiment outside the lines, without the grid, organizing his fingerprints more freely and organically, while still making remarkably realistic portraits. With this new form of draftsmanship, Close achieved an incredible degree of virtuosity providing a heightened sense of dynamism to his subjects. Working from matter-of-fact Polaroids, many shot by Close himself, these works are more precisely portraits of photographs of his sitters – Close faithfully reproduces the photographs’ inherent distortions, such as blurring caused by the camera’s depth of field and the loss of focus at the images’ edges. Perception and identity are called into question, and paradoxically, it is Close’s fingerprint, his subjective indexical mark, irrefutable as a sign of his own personal identity, that becomes cancelled out in its repetition and superimposition into another person’s reproduced portrait.

With these extraordinary works, Close conflates two common identification techniques, the ID photo and the fingerprint, and beautifully joins together two seemingly different ways of sensing – seeing and touching.