Artist and writer Mike Solomon offers a considered and appreciative assessment of Chuck Close's current exhibition at Guild Hall in his review for Hamptons Art Hub.
Solomon singles out the watercolor prints created at Magnolia Editions for special attention, writing:
Other works in the east gallery at Guild Hall show how Close has confronted the newest of media challenges, digital printing, which has since its inception revolutionized the art world. His archival watercolor pigment prints — large portraits of Cindy, 2012, Kiki, 2012, Cecily, 2012, and Zhang I, 2012 — are among the most sumptuous of his works I have ever seen.
Playing with the techniques of watercolor, in which tonalities are made when light penetrates the medium and then reflects back to the eye, carrying with it the color and tone the medium has bestowed, Close brings to bear in these absolutely gorgeous works all the associations a viewer might have about watercolors. There are echoes here of Cezanne, Turner, Homer and Klee.
Through the computer, he is able to assign tinted values in each square of the grid and, I suspect, to print these “washes” in layers, through multiple passes, to arrive at the tones he wants. Through this technology, he achieves the same effects earlier artists developed manually, with a brush.
The use of the digital domain to reinvent watercolor is the kind of thing many in the art world hoped for when the digital revolution started, but there have been too few examples of this kind of innovation. These works certainly change all that. I suspect an entirely new genre of watercolor painting will be derived from them. They are that important.
Notice the size of the grid, too, as its variation determines the kind of focus the viewer experiences of the image. In Cindy, 2012, the grid size is about one and half inches, so the abstraction of the work dominates until the viewer moves back quite a distance from the surface. Cecily, 2012, has an even larger grid of about two inches, so the “immediate splendor” (Alfonso Ossorio’s wonderful phrase) is what the viewer gets from its abstraction until moving to the opposite side of the gallery. Then the representation finally comes into focus. In Kiki, 2012 and Zhang I, 2012, the grid is smaller, about three quarters of an inch. In these two, the images are tighter and the focus moves closer to the surface of the work.
This choice of grid size is another one of those areas that Close plays with, and it begs, along with the beauty of the watercolor tints, the kind of contemplation that keeps one involved in the work.
To read the full review, please visit the Hamptons Art Hub website.
For more details on the show and associated events, please see this entry; for information on visiting Guild Hall, please check their website.
More art by Chuck Close from Magnolia Editions