Art Review

The photography of Chuck Close makes for an impressive show in Loveland

In the past few years, the Loveland Museum and Gallery (503 Lincoln Avenue, Loveland, 1-970-962-2410, has stepped up its game by presenting the work of famous artists, and this fall the beat goes on with Chuck Close: A Couple of Ways of Doing Something. The New York-based Close is one of the most important artists working today, with his pieces included in museum collections everywhere.

Close first came to the fore in the 1970s with hyperrealist portraits based on photos. As his work matured in the 1980s, he developed his own brand of pointilism to carry out his imagery, which still made obvious references to photography. And at this point, his backstory becomes unbelievably compelling: In 1988, Close was struck down in a moment with a spinal artery collapse that left him essentially paralyzed from the waist down. Amazingly, with only six months of physical therapy, he was painting again — first with a brush in his teeth and then with one strapped to his wrist.

The show in Loveland does not feature his paintings but rather his photos, which he has done all along — though early on, they were typically used as studies or sketches. The works on display here are based on a series of daguerreotypes of the artist's friends — including such notables as Philip Glass, Cindy Sherman, Andres Serrano, Kiki Smith (pictured) and James Turrell — that Close did with the assistance of Jerry Spagnoli, an acknowledged master of the archaic technique.

These images, which must be viewed behind glass lest they be smudged, are in little black hinged display boxes. On the walls are digital prints of the subjects paired with the specially commissioned poem that Bob Holman created for each of them. The most amazing pieces in the show are jacquard tapestries based on the daguerreotypes; they're enormous and were made by Magnolia Editions using state-of-the-art digital weaving machines. Close is the master of the close-up, and each of these pieces — regardless of technique — features a straight-on view of the subject's face that fills the picture plane to capacity.

This impressive show of monumental works (regardless of their size) runs through December 31 in the main space at the Loveland Museum and Gallery.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia