TACOMA, WA.- Tacoma Art Museum's upcoming exhibition, A Couple of Ways of Doing Something: Photographs by Chuck Close, Poems by Bob Holman, features forty-three of the Northwest native's portraits, many accompanied by praise poems by the critically renowned poet Holman. The exhibition is on view March 1 through June 15, 2008.
Celebrated for his inventive examinations of faces, Close emerged as a rare and extraordinary figurative painter in the late 1960s, exploring the human form-a subject rejected by most leading artists at the time. He developed a grid-based painting system that enabled him to scale up photographic portraits to colossal size. He regularly revisits the same photos and reinterprets them in different media so that viewers can experience the differences inherent among them.
"People think that if you have a photographic image, there is pretty much only one thing you can do with it, that because of its iconography, it is fixed," he once remarked. "But changing the medium, the method of mark-making, and the scale transforms the experience of that image into something new."
The work is based on series of portraits of Close's creative circle that evolved from his experiments with daguerreotypes-an antiquated photographic process experiencing a revival because the process creates images with astonishing depth and detail. Close produced many of the daguerreotypes in tandem with praise poems by Holman, founder of the Bowery Poetry Club. Together, they formed portraits of their subjects through images and words, and their collaboration is the inspiration for the exhibition title. Working collaboratively with leading workshops in the United States, Close translated these portraits into a series of digital pigment prints, tapestries, and photogravures.
The exhibition includes fourteen daguerreotypes, two photogravures, seven tapestries, and twenty digital pigment prints accompanied by Holman's poems. Each poem is written and typeset to reflect the personality and style of the subject. As a whole, the exhibition takes an intimate look into the importance of these people to Close's work and his life.
"A Couple of Ways of Doing Something underscores the importance of collaboration in Close's recent projects. It also honors the long friendships and mutual respect he shares with his subjects," said Rock Hushka, Director of Curatorial Administration and Curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art. "The same image, captured initially through photography, then translated into daguerreotype, tapestry, or print, becomes a different object and allows a deeper encounter for the viewer. The portraits are intimate studies and reveal the penetrating depth that defines Close's work."
The subjects of the portraits and poems are artists from Close's circle of artist friends: Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Bob Holman, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, James Siena, Lorna Simpson, Gregory Crewdson, Carroll Dunham, Elizabeth Murray, Kiki Smith, James Turrell, Ellen Gallagher, Cecily Brown, Lyle Ashton Harris, Elizabeth Peyton, Terry Winters, Lisa Yuskavage, and Robert Wilson, as well as a self-portrait. Photographer and daguerreotype specialist Jerry Spagnoli worked with Close for two years to create the series. The medium requires a long exposure time and the subject needs to sit still through the process. The result is a stiff and formal portrait that is often blurry. To overcome this, they used high-intensity strobe lights, which results in a wide tonal range and captures the sitters with a rare spontaneity.
Close has many ties to Washington. He was born in Monroe, and his family lived in Tacoma while his father worked at McChord Air Force Base, but he spent most of his youth in Everett. He attended Everett Community College and transferred to the University of Washington's School of Art, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1962. The UW recognized Close in 1997 by naming him Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus, the university's highest honor. His work is in major museum collections worldwide and he is represented by Pace Wildenstein, NY. His nationally-traveling retrospective Chuck Close (organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York) was presented by the Seattle Art Museum in 1999. He currently lives in Bridgehampton, NY.
Holman is a central figure in poetry's reemergence in popular culture and founder of the Bowery Poetry Club in New York. He's been making a living as a poet and running readings for more than twenty-five years, first at St. Mark's Poetry, then at Nuyorican Poets Café, where he founded and emceed their poetry slams from 1988 to 1996. He published several books, created Mouth Almighty (Mercury Records' spoken-word division) and produced poetry shows for PBS and MTV. He was recently dubbed a member of the "Poetry Pantheon" by the New York Times Magazine, "Ringmaster of the Spoken Word" by New York Daily News, and "Poetry Czar" by Village Voice.
Aperture Foundation - a not-for-profit organization devoted to photography and the visual arts has organized this traveling exhibition and produced the accompanying catalogue. Locally, this exhibition is generously supported by Vision Tacoma. Education programming is sponsored by Jon and Mary Shirley.
Tacoma Art Museum connects people and builds community through art. The museum serves the diverse communities of the region through its collection, exhibitions, and learning programs, emphasizing art and artists from the Northwest. The museum's five galleries display an array of major national shows, the best of Northwest art, creatively themed exhibitions, and historical retrospectives. In addition, there is an Education Wing for children, adults, and seniors with an art resource center, classroom, and studio for art making. Tacoma Art Museum is located in Tacoma's Museum District, near the Museum of Glass, the Washington State History Museum, and historic Union Station.