Object of the Month

dsdsTitle: Alex/Reduction Print
Artist: Chuck Close (b. 1940)
Nationality: American
Date: 1993
Medium: Screenprint from reduction linoleum cut
Credit: Purchase funds provided by James and Pamela Elesh, 2006.17.

Chuck Close is known for his large, photorealistic portraits. Although he began his career as an abstract painter, Close has become renowned for his focus on technique and process as elements important as the image itself. Alex/Reduction Print was originally conceived as a reduction linoleum print. This multiple color printing process, which makes use of a single piece of linoleum, was called the “suicide method” by Picasso because the block is destroyed as the print is created. When Close arrived at the University of Wisconsin in Madison to make the final print with master printer Joe Wilfer, the high-quality linoleum cracked in the cold, and the custom Japan paper that had been ordered was flawed and unusable.

Rather than abandon the project, Close and Wilfer cut a new sheet of linoleum and documented each stage of the cutting with a print on thin, plastic sheeting called Mylar. These Mylars were then used to create screenprints in a variety of greys. Alex/Reduction Print crosses the boundaries of two very different artistic processes. The original linoleum cut marks are visible in the matte ink of the screenprint, which itself is deep and nuanced as a result of the multiple stages of the reduction linoleum print. The combination of techniques creates an unprecedented and compelling portrait.

—Sarah Montell Hansen (Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, 2014)

Image:  Courtesy of the artist and Pace Prints, New York.

This work is on display in the Block Museum's Main Gallery during the exhibition Art on Paper: Prints, Drawings, and Photographs from the Block Museum, on view through August 26.

You can make an appointment to view other works from the Block Museum's permanent collection in the Eloise W. Martin Study Center. Email printroom@northwestern.edu or see Visit the Study Center for more information.