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Get an up-close view of photographer Close

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 08:33 PM

The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts continues its people-focused trend with a powerful exhibit of up-close and personal portraits by American artist Charles Thomas "Chuck" Close.

Known for his larger-than-life portraits, he bases his work on the photographic image. After that he uses a variety of mediums — including drawing, numerous painting techniques and printmaking — to bring the portrait to completion.

The museum's exhibit, called "Chuck Close — A Couple of Ways of Doing Something," explores many of the mediums Close uses. Works include 20 digital pigment prints and 14 daguerreotypes. [A daguerreotype is an old photographic process that uses a light-sensitive silver-coated copper plate to produce the image. The term is used for the process and the photo produced by the process.]

"We have about six or seven of his tapestries, and they are huge," said Joanne Milani, a museum trustee.

The wall-size tapestries are made by weaving together a combination of thousands of colored threads. Starting with a photograph transfer, Close depicts some of his closest friends in the tapestries, including Kate Moss, Lorna Simpson, Philip Glass and more.

"And there are two large photo gravures — about 50 by 40 inches — made in collaboration with Deli Daniel Sacilotto at the University of South Florida's Graphicstudio." Milani continued. "Deli is retired now from Graphicstudio, but he's world renowned as an expert in photo gravure."

Sacilotto will speak about the photo gravure process and about working with Chuck Close at 2 p.m. Sunday at the museum.

"Here is where you get a background on how [the prints] are made," Milani said. "It's very important."

It's not by chance that Close became a maker of large portraits. He was born with a condition called Prosopagnosia, or "face blindness," a condition which makes him unable to recognize faces. By photographing and painting them, he is better able to remember and distinguish faces.

"He calls them 'heads,' " Milani said. "He works from a grid, filling one segment at a time. And he fills them using all different tools: airbrush, paint brushes and so on. So he's working with it as if it were an abstraction."

But it's so finely done that the piece-by-piece nature of his work is not visible until you get up close, no pun intended.

Because of his difficulties — Close also suffered partial paralysis from a collapsed anterior spinal artery in 1988 — the artist works mainly with family and friends, Milani said.

As a result, the portraits in the exhibit feature those of colleagues such as Laura Simpson, Cindy Sherman and Andres Serrano, as well as a large black-and-white self-portrait.

The exhibit runs through March 28. Admission to the exhibit and to Sunday's lecture is free to museum members, $10 suggested donation for adults, $8 for students or military.

Call the museum at (813) 221-2222 or visit www.fmopa.org for information on this and future exhibits.

Columbus Drive studio exhibits prints

Bleu Acier studio and gallery presents an exhibition of polymer gravure print works by Thom O'Connor. The works, in basic black and white with a little bit of tone, are enigmatic but not abstract.

"There's a conceptual definition to his work," said Bleu Acier owner Erika Schneider said. "It's about the rhythms in the spaces, the shadows."

It's not by accident that Schneider knows O'Connor; he was her professor during her years of graduate school at State University of New York, Albany.

"He was one of the most important figures in stone lithography at the time," Schneider said. "That's why I went there. He was also responsible for the development of aluminum plate lithography."

As O'Connor's teaching assistant, Schneider got to print a lot of O'Connor's works. He also became the first artist with whom she collaborated.

"He taught me a lot about printing," she said." But he also taught me press etiquette — how to work with another artist and to know what they expect of a printer."

The exhibit opens with a free reception from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday and runs through March 3. Bleu Acier is at 109 West Columbus Drive. Call (813) 215-0622 for information.


Correspondent Esther Hammer can be reached at ehammer@tampatrib.com

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