The insouciant stare of the young man in Big Self-Portrait makes a striking counterpart to the stolid, knowing gaze of the older Close as represented in this self-portrait of 1997. Indeed, the comparison illustrates the evolution from fledgling artist to international icon.
Compared to the earlier work, the 1990s Self-Portrait also shows how abstraction has come to play a more prominent role in Closes's portraits. Each of the individual units of the grid is a miniature abstract painting unto itself, comprising a panoply of colors and shapes that seem to have jumped directly to the canvas from the artist's palette.
Close suffered a devastating spinal infection in 1988 that left him a quadriplegic. Since then he has developed an extraordinary technique using a complex grid-based reconstruction of the photographs that he works from - typically portraits of himself, his family and friends - to create really large-scale works. He has also been creating photographic montages on enormous sheets of Polaroid paper amongst many other techniques.
Charles Thomas (Chuck) Close was born in Monroe, Washington in 1940. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1962 and from Yale in 1964. He was the 1997 UW Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus - the highest university honor for one of its graduates. Close's work is included in the collections of numerous museums, including the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Guggenheim Museum (New York), and the Tate Gallery (London). The New York Museum of Modern Art held a special exhibit of Close's paintings and prints in 1998; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York held an exhibit on Close's prints in 2004.