Face blindness meant the photorealist artist, who has died aged 81, had to dismantle and reconstitute, making every cell of his pixellated portraits ever more dramatic
Hugely enlarged, Chuck Close stares back at you from behind his glasses, a cigarette lodged in the corner of his mouth. It is a face with a what-you-looking-at stare, and you look back, dwarfed by his image, thinking get-out-of-my-face in return.
Taking us from the top of his head to his sprouting chest hair, via every pore and bristle, the artist’s unkempt anti-grooming and non-coiffure, the trickle of smoke exhaled from his nostril, Close’s 1967-8 Big Self-Portrait charts every centimetre of his black and white photograph, which was gridded, enlarged and copied on to the canvas, then painted using a spray gun. All the aberrations of the original photograph, with its blank background and out-of-focus ear, are retained in the painting. The tip of the smouldering cigarette looms out at you. It makes you want to duck. Painted when Close was in his late 20s, the self-portrait was Close’s big move, both calling card and confrontation.