Mayor Bill Finch on Nov. 7 welcomed renowned visual artist Chuck Close to the city during a reception held in honor of work with Bridgeport’s Roosevelt School students as part of President Barack Obama’s Turnaround Arts initiative. Finch presented Close with a “key to the city” and a tree which exemplifies the tree line that will be planted in Close’s honor when the new Roosevelt School is completed.
“We are so honored to host Chuck Close in our city during this very special reception at Housatonic Community College Museum of Art,” Finch said. “Chuck’s work with our Roosevelt School students during the past year has been nothing short of amazing; they have had the opportunity to create and appreciate art on a whole new level. Thank you to the President’s Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council for choosing our students to take part in this very special program.”
“Roosevelt School is a shining example of what the arts can do to help propel lower performing schools forward,” said Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. “Tania [Kelly, principal of Roosevelt School] and her team have done an amazing job integrating the arts into this school, and the work she and all of her teachers have done has been quantified by our evaluation team.
“It’s been a particular pleasure to work with Mayor Finch and his staff,” Goslins said. “He’s supported this program from the very start, providing buses to take the kids from Roosevelt to New York City to spend a day with Chuck Close at his studio to attending events. Whenever we’ve needed anything he’s always said ‘yes’. His strong support of this program has been a key part of making the Turnaround Arts initiative at Roosevelt a success,.”
Manhattan-based visual artist Close recently mentored 34 students in the sixth through eighth grades at Bridgeport’s Roosevelt School, one of eight schools in the nation to participate in President Barack Obama’s Turnaround Arts initiative, which aims to improve low-performing schools by increasing student “engagement” through the arts.
The public-private partnership was developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council. Close was one of the eight high-profile creative talents who volunteered for the program, working closely with the selected school students, faculty and surrounding communities.
The reception opened the exhibit of five large-scale archival watercolor pigment prints provided by the artist in association with Magnolia Editions, Oakland, courtesy Pace Gallery. The exhibit runs through Dec. 5, at The Burt Chernow Galleries at the Housatonic Museum of Art. For galley hours, visit HousatonicMuseum.org.
Close’s portraits explore the intersection of photography and painting, providing an arresting experience. To create his photo-based work, Close places a grid on the photo and on the canvas, and working systematically, in incremental units, he builds his images by applying small strokes of paint in multiple colors. When viewed from afar, each cell is perceived as an average hue creating a unified image, albeit in near abstraction when viewed from a close distance. The prints emphasize the cell structure underlying the image which blurs into soft focus, affording an altered spin on the traditional genre of portraiture.