American artist Chuck Close first gained attention during the late 1960s as a member of the Photorealist movement, made up of painters who based their work on photographs and employed meticulous technique to achieve extremely detailed images. In early works, such as Big Self-Portrait (1968), he painstakingly copied the photograph onto his canvas by using a grid, then painted each square individually. This process is hidden in the final image, which appears to be continuous and “real,” like a huge photographic enlargement.
Since the early 1970s, Close has let the structure of his pictures be seen. The paintings are still composed on a grid and made up of numerous units, but these are now large squares containing gestural, abstract marks–circles, lines, diamonds. Looking at this portrait of American artist Kiki Smith is like looking at a face submerged in water, or through the lens of a kaleidoscope. Depending on where one stands in relation to the canvas, the image shifts, shimmers, breaks apart, congeals. In one work, Close has managed brilliantly to combine realism and abstraction.