The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2014

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APR 2014 Issue

CHUCK CLOSE Nudes 1967 – 2014

On View
February 28 – March 29, 2014
New York


 “If eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for being”
Said Emerson of the Rhodora. Yet “seeing and making
Is a different matter,” said the old poet.
“It’s a physical condition, as always,” said the wise man.
Paint is not made simply to be applied with brush on canvas.
Some have heroically scraped the surface
With a palette knife, or sanded to get air.

On many occasions he was told to use the tip of the nail
To scratch onto the black and grey surface
To produce hair on her skin.
She is oblivious of my gaze
While in her recline, eyes looking away, anchored
Three inches from her toe to the right
And one inch from her triceps brachii to the left.
How could I forget the fourteen inches of bed spread
Down perpendicularly to the bottom edge of the bed?

She is the biggest Olympia ever painted
Without sensational politic that would
Upset my mother, as passive nudity would.
It makes sense when the tan line was already there
Before Mark Greenwold’s controversial “Secret Storm.”
Encore, mine is monochromatic with a lonely figure
Monumentally actionless. Sono d’accordo.

Why and how to treat images in fragments!
It’s not the limitation of technology
Or the accumulation of equal parts
That makes the image come alive for us before sunrise,
Or before the arrival of the discourse of the figure.
The smell of chemicals adds to the distortion and
Irregularity from one image to the other, that heightens
My anxiety. From the circumcised natural endowments
Of “Mark/Diptych” to the more confident
“Laura/Diptych” to the index of the front
To the back torsos of the men and women standing erect,
Rigidly frontal, all of whom, much too generous in reformation,
I had seen years ago at a famous party of Fra Luca Pacioli.

A friend who saw them recently
Told me there are faces I don’t recall.
Perhaps Lavater would have liked to offer you his expertise
While Voltaire and Lichtenberg would not be bothered.
Should we argue until noon?
Before the edges of each image begin to dissolve.

Leaping from 2000–2008 to 2013–2014
He expands to fuller inclusions of similar
Fronts and backs of each of the guests
From last Sunday’s brunch at Il Buco.
Still, we all know the Venus of Willendorf
Kept Willem de Kooning up endless nights in 1953.
There is no thermonuclear lighting.
There is no need to cramp people in the corner of the room.
Yesterday Ron Gorchov confirmed that the back of
The Elgin Marbles is more alluring than the front.

Was there ever a conversation about Newman’s zip,
Which de Kooning refers to at the elevator’s door close?
That sets the world apart. But it was he who dared to
Overlap them once upon the time. Let’s negotiate about
Two and three inches in between. We both like the thin aluminum
And the scale that eases the anxiety, especially when
Nudity means beauty and dignity. The same philosopher said,
“Never forget the mathematics of beauty.”
If he can marry natural appearance to his intellectual design
Adam and Eve will finally meet again in the Golden Section.


Chuck Close, “Big Nude,” 1967. Acrylic on gessoed canvas, 117 ̋ × 253 1/2 ̋. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2014

All Issues