Chuck Close’s 2016 Self-Portrait (Jade Glasses) tapestry edition continues to draw attention to the artist’s evolving personal style, which has tended in the last few years toward bright colors and bold, all-over African prints. Instead of the low-key spectacles and crewneck combination of years past, Close appears here in a pair of eye-catching, mint-colored frames from a Brooklyn boutique and a polka-dot scarf purchased from a vendor on the streets of New York. Where the artist’s head loomed large in previous compositions, here the fullness of his beard — worn in the long, wizard-like style currently in vogue — dominates the picture plane.
For the first time — and tellingly — the tapestry’s background color is a pale, sky blue; also for the first time, Close’s facial expression is more open and accessible than it has been before. While Close’s portraiture continues to eschew sentimentality in favor of rigorous formal experiment, Self-Portrait (Jade Glasses) evinces an emotional dimension beyond the cerebral enterprise of visual translation that has become Close’s trademark. Traces of emotional experience may have been detectable in the depths of Close’s past portraits — embedded in the forehead furrows, frown lines, or twinkling eye of a given subject — but here, joy and pain seem to hover at the surface, dancing in Close’s polka-dot scarf and lingering in the pale blue overhead. In an era of “alternative facts” and patriarchal condescension from the powers that be, Self-Portrait (Jade Glasses) presents an appealingly vulnerable and honest portrait of contemporary manhood. -Nick Stone