“Who is going to buy a nine-foot painting of someone they don’t know?” a gallery owner asked painter Chuck Close at the start of his career. “Don’t worry,” Close replied, “They’ll all go to museums.”
This story was recounted in an opening night talk by Terrie Sultan, Director of the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY, which originated the “Chuck Close Photography” exhibit that is now at the NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale until Oct 2nd.
Grandiose from the start in both the scale of his work and his self-confidence, museums are indeed the perfect venue for Close’s monumental works. The show offers a generous display of Close’s large-scale nudes and portraits taken (sometimes in sections) with a large-scale Polaroid camera. Also included are some innovative daguerreotypes, a 19th-century technique which Close modernized by using banks of strobe lights. The process behind his productions are unveiled through an exhibit of contact sheets, proofs and photographs scored with ink and masking tape.
As Terrie Sultan remarked, Close’s nudes seem strangely unsensual, yet when he occasionally turns his attention to flowers, the photographs are downright sexy. Close’s subjects are mostly himself, friends and family, but he also turned his lens to well-known people. The shows includes portraits of Kate Moss, Alec Baldwin and Bill and Hillary Clinton as you’ve never seen them.
A nice relief from Close’s soul-baring close-ups is the Museum of Art’s downstairs exhibit: “Bellissima: Italy and High Fashion 1945-1968 (through June 5th), presented by Bvlgari. It was a great era for fashion, and I wanted all the clothes. Be sure to watch the clips from Italian films of that era, where stunning outfits are worn by women shooting handguns or traipsing through fountains in Fellini films.