Thursday, November 01, 2007

Chuck Close speaks at BU

New York artist Chuck Close spoke at Boston University tonight. Here’s some of what he said, with the order slightly shuffled:
  • I think I’ve always been as interested in artificiality as reality.
  • Everything in my work is sort of driven by my learning disability.
  • One of the characteristics of my disability is a sort of face blindness that I’m sure drove me to make portraits in the first place.
  • When you’re there making stuff it keeps you off the streets and out of trouble. I like stuff. I like to make stuff. I like to be there a long time and see what happens.
  • The activity itself is what interests me. Almost every idea I ever got I got from working. It’s a good way to keep from getting stuck.
  • Tapestries [that I’m working on now], like everything I do, are made up of lots of little pieces. … How do you build something out of a bunch of threads? How do those threads stack up to look like something? … This has been the basis of everything I do.
  • I was a junior abstract expressionist in the third grade or something. All the angst had been removed. … We came along and we imitated the surface of the thing. We got pretty good at imitating the surface of the thing.
  • Sometimes you don’t know what you want to do, but you sure as hell know what you don’t want to do.
  • We tried to back ourselves into our own corner where no one else’s answers would fit.
  • Far more interesting than problem solving is problem creation. If you ask yourself an interesting enough question you will put yourself in a space where no one else’s answers will fit.
  • My generation was hell bent to purge our work of every possible reference to every other artist.
  • When I made the first big head I wanted to rip it away from the convention in which we usually see it.
  • I wanted to try to make a face almost as a kind of landscape.
  • We don’t see that kind of detail [in faces]. The only time we see that kind of detail is when we’re making love.
  • I wanted to paint anonymous people because Andy Warhol was painting superstars. So I painted my friends. And they all got famous. And screwed it up on me. So I painted my family.
  • I tried to get rid of expressive mark-making. But I realized a face is a roadmap of your life.
  • An artist’s career is a continuum. Things happen, interrupt it. But it didn’t mean I’m one person before [I went into the hospital] and one person after.
  • Painting is the most transcendent of all mediums, I think, because it denies its physical reality. … Colored dirt on a flat surface. It can make you cry. That’s an amazing thing.
  • Now I’ve gone to paintings that are gestural, but they’re dumb gestures. … It’s only clusters of these marks that make it something expressive, not the marks themselves.
  • I don’t do art for therapy. I do therapy for therapy.
  • Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and get to work.
Pictured: Chuck Close’s 2000 “Self-Portrait/Pulp/Pochoir,” paper pulp and pochoir, in the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. © 2007 Chuck Close.


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