“If that’s not creativity, I don’t know what is.” That is how Chuck Close described the subject of one of his portraits last night, which was—along with several others—unveiled at the New Museum last night in celebration of AOL’s 25th Birthday and launch of their recent Project on Creativity.
Close was referring to Dean Kamen, who had invented the artist’s wheelchair, a device that, despite his disability, allows for Close to continue painting with the brush strapped on to his wrist.
Close’s other portraits, which were commissioned by AOL, feature actress Claire Danes, filmmaker Gus Van Sant, Close himself (in a new self-portrait) and the Dalai Lama. Each portrait was scribbled at the bottom with Close’s loopy signature.
It is common for Close to stay away from iconography when it comes to photographing, but even knowing that, it was almost startling how realistic his latest portraits appear. Claire Danes was almost unrecognizable. Sure, a few pores were present, but somehow she still looked better in Close’s portraits than in any of her blown-out magazine spreads. Indira Cesarine, creative director of XXXX Magazine and guest at the event last night noted Mr. Close’s “raw ideal.” Having worked as a Fashion Photographer for a long time, Cesarine found “Close’s essence of humanity comforting,” as “people are overwhelmed by the amount of retouching” in modern-day portraits.
But Close, who sat with a peaceful smile in the middle of an explosive celebration on the 7th floor, explains that “[the portraits] are just a placeholder for a whole campaign,” that there are many more to come. The legendary artist did after all spend the year photographing the most “creative thinkers” in the world (who use AOL). “These people make the Arts different,” he said.
In addition to the work of Mr. Close, forty-one other artists were given a chance to premiere their work at the New Museum through AOL’s program. Maureen Sullivan, a strategist for AOL, said that the idea behind it was to get a plethora of artists to help AOL create a new logo. Surprised that 41 artists followed through, Sullivan said, “I thought we’d only get ten!”
Dave White makes a cheeseburger look good to vegetarians with his paintbrush. Known for his unique choice of subject (Star Wars, superheroes, food), superior skills, and unique method of painting (one that he describes as “explosive”), the Liverpool-based artist has gained attention through both his own work and his commercial collaborations with Nike, Coca Cola, and other major companies, On viewing his food paintings, White says, “if people lick their lips, my job is done.”