What strikes me about Chuck Close’s work (other than the corny irony that his last name reflects his up-close portraits) is that before the time when his works were presented, real “life like” paintings were idealized, only of substantial, usually public figures, and for somewhat “easy” viewing. People did not have to analyze what they saw because they were just looking at something that appears simple and in some respects utopian. However in works like Chuck Close’s Self Portrait, he is not idealized, he is real and lifelike, and strikingly normal. Close’s is not necesarily the face that one would pine over to hang in their room or stare at for long periods of time. His hair is messy, he holds a cigarette in his pursed lips, and beneath his glasses lies a smirk that could be taken as arrogant, mean, or rough if not a combination of the three.
Close explained his work, saying “I am not trying to make facsimiles of photographs. Neither am I interested in the icon of the head as a total image. I don’t want the viewer to see the whole head at once and assume that that’s the most important aspect of my painting. I am not making Pop personality posters like the ones they sell in the Village. That’s why I choose to do portraits of my friends–individuals that most people will not recognize. I don’t want the viewer to recognize the head of Castro and think he has understood my work.” Chuck Close, 1970 The most interesting part of this is that his entire perspective can be summed up by his use of the word “individual.” This is because essentially, that is such a simple concept, yet one that had not been addressed much to that point in art, nor has it necessarily been continued. Artists previously had painted subjects that were different than the norm, but they were normally depicted as different forms of the same human construct, and thus just different variations that it is possible for humans to come in. Close however changes the perspective to include humans that are individuals in the respect that they are not just symbols for different “types” but in total form, different human beings.