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Chuck Close, artist known for monumental grid portraits, dies at 81

Time consuming and labor intensive, he produced paintings that dissect the human face.
Image: US artist Chuck Close sits in front of a self portrait
Artist Chuck Close sits in front of one of his paintings, a self Portrait, in Aachen, western Germany, on May 24, 2007.Henning Kaiser / DDP/AFP via Getty Images file
/ Source: Associated Press

NEW YORK — Chuck Close, a painter, photographer and printmaker best known for his monumental grid portraits and photo-based paintings of family and famous friends, has died. He was 81.

His attorney, John Silberman, said Close died Thursday at a hospital in Oceanside, New York. He did not give a cause of death.

Close, whose professional highlights include a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1973, was known for using a grid structure for the representation of an image in nearly all of his works, which he said helped him break the face down into “incremental units.”

Image: Chuck Close: Recent Paintings Opening Night Reception
Chuck Close attends a reception at Pace Wildenstein Gallery in New York, on May 10, 2005.Lawrence Lucier / FilmMagic/Getty Images file

Time consuming and labor intensive, he produced a plethora of paintings that dissect the human face of such luminaries as President Bill Clinton, composer Philip Glass and the artist himself.

His works have been displayed in museums, galleries and even the New York City subway.

In 2017, Close faced accusations of sexual harassment from some women who said he made inappropriate sexual comments in prior years when they had gone to his studio to potentially be models for him.

He told The New York Times that he had spoken to the women about their bodies as part of evaluating them as models, and apologized for causing any discomfort.

Close, who had been diagnosed with dementia-related conditions in 2013, also had mobility issues, requiring him to use a wheelchair.

In Close’s work, the “pixilated” images “are filled with tiny abstract colored shapes, individual brushstrokes or even the artist’s fingerprints. When viewed from a distance, the individual marks miraculously resolve into a surprisingly realistic face,” the Akron Art Museum in Ohio said in describing Close’s paintings and prints for an exhibition titled “Familiar Faces: Chuck Close in Ohio Collections.”

Born in Monroe, Wisconsin, Close graduated from the University of Washington, Seattle, and received a MFA from Yale University.