Sometimes you see the forest. Sometimes you see the trees. Sometimes you don’t see the forest until you first see the trees.
How the whole is re-visualized through the sum of its parts has shaped artist Chuck Close’s work, particularly his portraiture, for 50 years. It is his methodical approach to deconstructing and then reassembling his subjects that inspired architects at OPN’s Madison in their submission to this year;s Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s Design MMoCA 2016: Break the Pattern.
The team’s concept — one of 15 selected by the museum for this year’s exhibit, which opens Friday with a ticketed gala — is based on Close’s consideration of the part and how it relates to the whole as well as his constant reconsideration of how the whole is rebuilt through revision of parts.
Close, who has a condition called prosopagnosia (also known as face blindness) and is unable to recognize faces, has spent decades studying and dissembling the human face. As a result, he says he has discovered the exact number of regions or areas needed to maintain a person’s individuality. In other words, he knows precisely how much he can distort an image before it becomes unrecognizable.
The basis of their analysis is Keith IV is a single piece of art, within a study, by Close. For this and the majority of his other work, Close divides his photographs into a grid. How he reconstructs the gridded parts, though, is ever-changing. Sometimes the result is hyper-realistic. At other times he experiments with application and media. All the while, he is attempting to maintain the portrait’s essence.
The team was inspired to learn from the static and dynamic steps of Chuck’s process, while exploring how they could break the pattern. They did this by deconstructing Close’s work.
Using a visual programming language called Grasshopper, they extracted data from a rasterized image of Keith IV. The original artwork is sectioned into 34 columns and 44 rows and thus produced 1,496 numbers, one for each square. Specifically, they analyzed the varying levels of brightness in the painting, identified regions, and associate each region with a single unit-less number. For example, if the region is painted black it read as 0.0. A white painted region read as 1.0. They then stripped the data set of a unit, creating a data set of dimensionless quantities to be applied in various ways.
The result will be on display one week only from April 30 to May 8 at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.