A Couple Ways
of Doing Something
by Chuck Close
and poems by Bob Holman
Chuck Close has almost always used photographs as source
material to create his artful portraits, whether in his painstakingly
hyper-realistic larger-than-life paintings, or with wood-block prints,
or those constructed from blobs of hand-made colored paper pulp.
He often used Polaroids to begin his work. For this project, he teamed
up with daguerreotype expert Jerry Spagnoli to photograph many of his
familiar subjects (artist-friends Laurie Anderson, Lyle Ashton-Harris,
Cecily Brown, Gregory Crewdson, Carroll Dunham, Ellen Gallagher, Philip
Glass, Bob Holman, Elizabeth Murray, Elizabeth Peyton, Andres Serrano,
Cindy Sherman, James Siena, Lorna Simpson, Kiki Smith, James Turrell,
Robert Wilson, Terry Winters, Lisa Yuskavage, and himself).
Then Close converted the old-world daguerreotypes into super-sharp beautiful
large modern prints with high-resolution digital scans, matte black and
silver inks. Nineteenth century meets 21st century, with some 1950s-style
beat poetry by old-school New York poet Bob Holman thrown into the mix.
The portraits hold you in their gaze. Emerging from pitch black darkness,
they shimmer silvery and glowing, looming large and hazy except for a
sliver of very sharp, shallow focus: perhaps only the glint of one telling
eye, and a patch of shining detailed porous skin. They sear you.
Opposite each photo in the luxurious large-format book, is a lyrical “praise
poem” personalized with the subject’s own words re-arranged
and repeated, interspersed with the poet’s observations and musings.
The poetry is typeset in a personal, whimsical way to complement the character
of each person caught willingly through the lens. Close’s unblinking
stare and stunning, unrepentant, “this-is-real” detail in
the prints are softened by the jazzy, boppiness of poet Holman. It’s
a good pairing.
Here’s an excerpt from an interview by Kyle Rexer that is included
in the book:
Rexer: "And daguerreotypes are unforgiving. In the
nineteenth century there were reams written about the fact that if you
decided to have a daguerreotype made, you took your self-image in your
hands, because nothing would be left out."
Close: "It was more warts-and-all than any other
process. Because it’s so red-sensitive, any marks, any flaws are
heightened. You have to be pretty comfortable in your skin, and vanity
goes out the window. And it’s also physically painful. A normal
daguerreotype is a more than two-minute exposure. We’ve made it
instant photography by having a billion foot-candles of light go off all
at once, and that’s very painful. The flashes are so intense your
eyes slam shut. It’s like having an ice pick shoved in your eyeball.
You can smell hair burning… Each one of these people who lent me
their image with no control over how it’s going to come out, in
this act of incredible generosity, had to put away whatever self-image
they had of how they looked and accept this other image as being them.
That goes beyond generosity."
This is also Book as object. Shimmering tip-ons printed in matte black
on fine silver paper grace the front and back, surrounded by the dark
gray canvas hard-bound book binding. The end-papers show the front and
back of one of Close’s paralyzed hands laid flat with no muscle
tone at all. From beginning to end, there is no surrender.
It’s a cool book, one that you may find yourself reaching for in
times of quiet reflection, or when you need a reality fix beyond looking
critically into your own mirror.
— Jim Casper
An exhibition of the daguerreotypes, poems, and representative works
by each artist-subject will be shown at Aperture Gallery, NYC, November
9, 2006–January 4, 2007.
A Couple of Ways of Doing Something
Photographs by Chuck Close
Poems by Bob Holman
Interview with Chuck Close and Bob Holman by Lyle Rexer
Clothbound, 22 tritone images
56 Pages, 11.375" X 14.875"
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