From: William Marsh (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: 04/10/02-01:22:15 PM Z
I once read an interview with Close, soon after his big portraits began
to hit, in which he said that the reason he works from photos of faces,
and makes the paintings so big, is because he is dyslexic and cannot
recognize people from a gestalt of their features, as do most of us. He
can see individual features, but has great trouble visually combining
those features into a whole recognizable face. He thought that if he
made them very big, starting from a photograph, which would provide a
verifiable reference image, it would help him see! Furthermore, he took
that dyslexic symptom of having an image fractured by his own unique
neurology, and incorporated it into his working method by breaking the
image into a map of tiny squares, each with its own unique content but
recreating the whole image when grouped, as a metaphor for his inability
to see faces as most people do. It then became his "style," you could
say (except that I hate that word), although I bet a considerable amount
of time separated the initial "AHA!," and the descriptive verbiage that
began to accumulate around the work, whether from his own analysis or
that of any critic.
The point is that the impetus for his method came not from some "slavish
dependency on phtotgraphy, blah, blah, blah...," but from a genuine
interaction with the real world as he saw it (or DIDN'T see it!). Also
I doubt that his work evolved in such a conscious manner, as ascribed to
it by critics. Most people don't start with a concept and then
mechanically carry it out. It is a much more spontaneous process,
driven by less obvious inner resources, and the analysis comes later, in
retrospect, sometimes after a great deal of time has passed, IF AT ALL.
Critics inevitably fail to realize this, because they are not working artists.
He was probably messing around in the studio, using whatever tools were
at his immediate disposal (including photos), and stumbled onto this, or
built up one revelation after another, over an hour, a day, a week, a
month, until the method took shape. Read Nicholas Nixon's words about
how he came to be using the 8x10 to take spontaneous portraits of
people. He was doing cityscapes, and "..came upon this as I do most
other things, that is RATHER DUMBLY." (my caps) I took a class with
Paul Caponigro once, and everyone was so reverent and asking him about
his equipment choices as if they could gather in the lodestone of his
"genius" by purchasing the same mystically chosen items that he had.
When asked why he used a Durst 5x7 enlarger, for instance, he said he
bought it because it was on sale. Imagine that! Some people in the
class were dumbfounded, but I bet they went out and bought that very
enlarger anyway. Their questions missed the point by a light year...
...the point being, that I don't think the working artist stops to
enumerate a coherent philosophy every time he comes upon a new level in
his work. It just happens, and, as we are all products of our time, he
can't help but pursue a vision in a manner that incorporates what is
taking place around him in the culture at large. So blaming someone for
using a tool that is at hand seems ridiculous. When I'm building a
table for the darkroom, I don't make my own nails in order to have the
aesthetics of the table adhere more closely to those of table builders
of some other time. The artist doesn't work in a classroom, staking out
a logical progression of steps in the development of his ideas. It a
mess! To ascribe motivation on the basis of some school of thought or
another, as you do your work, is not doing art, it's doing criticism.
So the artist doesn't bother.
Art making is a chaotic spontaneous bypass of the reasoning centers of
the brain, and if you think about it too much, it doesn't happen. The
people whose work Perl writes about are so far beyond what he writes
about. They don't have time to stop what they are doing in order to
back up and explain to some critic what they DID. Critics are, at best,
secondary to the process of making art, and probably tertiary, far
behind breakfast and sex. I mean, who do you make your art for? A
critic? A gallery owner? If it's real, it's made for you, and you do
it because you have to, like breathing.
There is a great passage in "The Fountainhead," in which Howard Roark,
the architect, speaking to Elsworth Toohey, the architecture critic,
after being invited to "Tell me what you really think of me, Mr. Roark,"
says, "I don't think of you, Mr. Toohey."
> Here is the critical passage I think: "The fundamentally unanalyzed
> fact of Richter's career is his slavish dependency on photographic
> images. We would do well to remember that only four years ago Robert
> Storr organized at the Modern a retrospective of Chuck Close, another
> contemporary artist whose career is grounded in a slavish dependency
> on photographic images. These are not artists who from time to time
> take an interest in the particular qualities of certain photographic
> images, or who find compositional or structural ideas in photographs
> that intrigue them and that they think of bringing into their work as
> painters. They cling to the two dimensional images that the camera
> produces in order to concoct their own two dimensional painted
> images....Basically, Richter and Close have ceded the act of creation
> to the camera. AFter which they dither around with notions of
> facture and style--they give their photographic material a
> personalized 'artistic' spin. Yet there is always a deadness to this
> work: the deadness of their dependency on the photograph, of their
> inability to make anything on their own. They want us to believe
> that deadness is a form of hipness.
> Richter and Close are far from being the only contemporary
> artists who are hardpressed to respond to nature if they do not have
> a camera to do the looking for them.Countless academic portrait
> painters, who will never garner any attention at the museum of modern
> art, depend on photographs when they do their work; and they are
> dismissed as sentimental hacks. With Richter and Close, however,
> photorealism has an avant-gardist eclat..."
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