Chuck Close. Robert/104,072. 1973-74

Chuck Close



Not on view
Synthetic polymer paint and ink with graphite on gessoed canvas
9' x 7' (274.4 x 213.4 cm)
Gift of J. Frederic Byers III and promised gift of an anonymous donor
Object number
© 2015 Chuck Close
Painting and Sculpture
This work is not on view.
Chuck Close has 43 works online.
There are 2,104 paintings online.

"No work of art was ever made without a process," Close has said, and Robert/104,072 was made by a painstaking process indeed: it is composed of tiny black dots, each set inside a single square of a 104,072-square grid. The sense of shape and texture—of the distinction between metal and skin, between knitted sweater and bushy mustache—depends on the density of the paint, which Close applied with a spray gun, revisiting each square an average of ten times. Not surprisingly, the work took fourteen months to make.

When Close began to paint portraits, in 1967-68, figurative painting was widely considered exhausted. The figures in Pop art were coolly ironic; and other artists were painting abstractions, or were abandoning painting altogether for more conceptual systems of art-making. Close preferred to apply a conceptual system to a traditional mode of painting. The aggressive scale makes the system clear—close up, the gridded dots in Robert/104,072 are quite apparent—and the black-and-white palette reflects the image's source in a photograph.

Robert/104,072 announces itself as less illusion than code. For Close, a picture like this one is not "a painting of a person as much as it is the distribution of paint on a flat surface. . . . You really have to understand the artificiality of what you are doing to make the reality."

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 274

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