A printmaker looks at a person’s face like he looks at a work of art — in pieces.
From a distance, artist Chuck Close’s portraiture looks like untouched photography. But approaching it more closely, it is apparent that the work exists on a grid and each component of the print — whether it’s the face of Brad Pitt, Roy Lichtenstein or Close himself — contributes to the entire image.
Portland, Ore. collector Jordan D. Schnitzer had this experience in 1994 when he purchased his first Close print.
“In a day and age when we’re so prone to jumping to conclusions of what someone’s like, [Close’s] work forces me to realize we’re all made up of lots of little complex parts, and maybe don’t be so quick to judge,” Schnitzer said.
Schnizter is exhibiting over 40 years and 80 prints of Close’s work at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art for several reasons — primarily as a steward of smaller art communities and printmaking innovation — this winter.
“His works, from a technological standpoint, are phenomenal,” Schnitzer said.
They’re phenomenal because Close is a portrait artist and printmaker with prosopagnosia, or the inability to recognize faces.
OKCMOA curator Jennifer Klos said Close may remember a certain element or facial feature of his subject, but he is unable to recognize the complete face of someone, even if it is a friend or family member.
“He’s really able to take apart an image and really reinterpret it himself, whereas we may not see the great detail or the shape,” Klos said. “But Chuck Close is able to see or create something that’s uniquely his.”
Close’s condition actually works to his advantage as a printmaker because the process is completed by working with one color at a time.
“Some [visitors] may see the grid because he actually creates the abstract shapes of color within each square, which is certainly characteristic of Chuck Close,” Klos said.
Klos said the portraits are all composed in the center of the work and fill most of the frame.
“As you walk closer, it starts becoming magical in terms of how it changes and moves,” Schnitzer said. “What you realize is there are paintings within paintings within paintings; images within images within images.”
A collector of Close’s work for nearly 20 years, Schnitzer most likely possesses the largest individual collection of his works on paper in the country. Through his experience in the greater art world, he learned that Close generously supports younger artists by attending their openings and exhibitions, and he hopes the Oklahoma City community will do the same with its younger viewers.
“Artists today are able to do things on paper that were never done before,” he said, “making it an exciting medium for artists to use and for viewers to appreciate.”