26 March 2006

Review: Chuck Close (High Museum of Art)

Dan and I hit the preview of the Chuck Close: Self-Portraits exhibit today. I’ve been a fan of Chuck Close since Dan introduced me to his work about 10 years ago. Close has taken the portrait to a new level. I love his huge canvases, his montage/collage portraits, his massive Polaroids, his daguerreotypes. I’ve seen his pieces at MoMA and the National Gallery, and caught a great exhibit of recent work at the Corcoran about five years ago.

The show includes some amazing pieces. My favorite was the first one I saw: Big Self-Portrait (right), a huge black-and-white portrait painting he did in the late 1960s (love his attitude in the piece). He used a very thin coat of paint to give the canvas the look of a photograph. I know Close hates to hear his work called photorealistic, but, let’s face it, Big Self-Portrait is (sorry, Chuck).

Overall, the show is good. There are self-portraits in many different media: handmade paper, rubber stamping, woodcuts, etchings, drawings — even holograms. Some wildly colorful, others beautiful tones of black and white. It's fascinating, too, to see the gridded photographs he uses to develop the paintings.

I found, though, that since you saw the same self-portraits over and over in different media, it felt a bit repetitive by the last gallery. I would have liked to see some of his other portraits, as well. But don’t let that statement keep you at home; whether you’re a Chuck Close fan or have yet to see his work, I recommend this exhibit.

My all-time favorite Chuck Close piece (and one of my favorite pieces of work from the last half of century) is Fanny/Fingerpainting, at the National Gallery of Art (since the High show is self-portraits, this one didn’t make it to Atlanta). It hung for a long time in the lobby area of the East Wing. From afar, it looks like a huge, beautiful black-and-white photograph; once you get close to the piece, you notice that this huge portrait is made from fingerprints. It gives the piece life, texture. Really amazing piece; I keep a postcard of it on my desk.

For more on Chuck Close, click here.

BTW, if you have yet to visit the High Museum of Art since the expansion opened, you’re missing a lot. It’s an amazing building. With more than 175,000 additional square feet, more of the High’s permanent collection is on display. I didn’t know the museum owned several Ellsworth Kelly pieces or a Jean-Michel Basquiat piece until the new section opened in November. Put the High on your list for the spring.

Here's the new main entrance. Doesn't the building look beautiful again our blue spring sky?

Here's the back of the original building, shot from the courtyard; Peachtree's just below the the trees.

I call this one Groovy Guy Sunning in Courtyard.

And — finally — there’s a great restaurant at the complex. I’ve eaten twice at Table 1280 — lunch with my niece after Christmas, and Sunday brunch today with Dan — and I give it a big thumbs-up. We really needed a good restaurant at Woodruff Arts Center. Make plans for the Sunday brunch buffet; the food and desserts were absolutely amazing.

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At 3/27/2006 01:46:00 PM, Anonymous Paul said...

Man, I gotta get out to some museums. --Although, some to think of it, I may not be able to for a while.

At 3/27/2006 05:49:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

You should try to hit the Getty two or three times a year, if only for the view and the buildings. But the current Degas drawing and German photomontage photos look interesting.

At 3/27/2006 06:09:00 PM, Anonymous Paul said...

I'm thinking about doing the LA County Museum of Art next. I've only been there once and that was a while ago. --Plus they got tar pits.

At 3/27/2006 06:12:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Well, you can't go wrong with tar pits. The museum will have Klimts soon -- and the guy who designed the High addition is also working on LACMA. You'll have to take Romulus and Remus when they join us.

At 3/27/2006 06:31:00 PM, Anonymous Paul said...

I think ol' R & R might be a little on the arty side now that you mention it.

At 3/27/2006 07:44:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Note to self: Two baby berets and black turtlenecks for R&R


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