Chuck Close (1940-)
Acrylic and graphite pencil on canvas
Overall: 108 1/4 × 84 in. (275 × 213.4 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from Mrs. Robert M. Benjamin
Rights and Reproductions Information
© artist or artist’s estate
Chuck Close made his inaugural series of works–eight large-scale, black and white paintings of faces—between 1968 and 1970. In this and other early “heads” (as the artist calls them), Close sets each frontally-depicted face against a neutral ground.
Phil is a portrait of Close's long-time friend, composer Philip Glass. Despite his intimate relationship with the subject of the painting, Close created this work in a calculated, systematic manner. The artist took an 8 x 10-inch photograph of the sitter, overlaid it with a penciled grid, and then painted a vastly enlarged blowup of each square onto the canvas using airbrushes to create a photographic finish. As a result of this drastic enlargement, we see Glass at an uncomfortably close distance from which every mole, hair, and wrinkle is visible. With its cool, almost clinical detachment from its subject, the work functions more like a giant mug shot than a portrait.