Chuck Close: Up Close at Guild Hall

"This is our best show ever," exulted Guild Hall Executive Director Ruth Appelhof, repeating what she says every August, as she greets guests for the late summer exhibition. She may be right this time. Chuck Close's signature portraits writ large occupy the elegant space like old friends, one gallery devoted to recent work, the other to earlier work, like a graphic self-portrait on a simple grid from 1974, bespectacled with flowing hair. His new self-portrait on tapestry hung alongside Lou (as in Reed), Lucas (Samaras) and Roy (Lichtenstein) is a rich evocation of himself, bald. You can feel every wrinkle. In a colorful dashiki print suit, the artist wheeled in on his customized chair, designed, he once told me at an exhibition at Pace Gallery, so that he can crane up and chat at cocktail parties, eye to eye. Eying the tattooed visitor who asked him to pose for a photo, Close said he wanted a tattoo, the image on signs for handicapped parking.


One of our supreme portraitists, he may be our most gregarious. Close has lots of friends: an A-list of artists came for cocktails at the Riggio Sculpture Garden, among them Lou Reed (the rocker's done photography), Cindy Sherman, Eric Fishl, April Gornik, Ross Blechner, Judy Hudson, in addition to writers Robert Storr, author of the exhibition essay, and Phoebe Hoban, who has just completed her biography of Lucien Freud. Alec Baldwin and Hilaria, one week away from her due date, joined the party, among the basalt and granite works by Isamu Noguchis, and others: Richard Serra, Joel Shapiro, Willem DeKooning, Niki de Saint Phalle on the vast grounds; the house's interiors were also open: a modest Lichtenstein hung in the den where guests sipped white wine. Work by Robert Irwin and Donald Judd adorned the pool house. Sienna, one of Chuck Close's recent subjects, her head larger than life on Hahnemuhle rag paper, told me Chuck likes to tell the story of James Turrell spinning him around in his chair to get the full effect of his neon light art in the reconfigured Guggenheim Museum's rotunda.

Another guest, Tristana Waltz, donated her East Hampton house and garden for the Guild Hall annual Garden as Art tour, to take place on August 24. A kid's fantasy, the grounds feature a child's vegetable garden and playhouse, a pond and waterfall. Also on the tour, the grounds of The Bayberry nursery, with its Asian inspired boat dock over a manmade half-acre pond. Andrew Sabin's Turtle Bluff, on Amagansett's Bluff Road features goats, chickens, rabbits, pheasants, and a pea hen. You may also meet Wally, the resident pig at large.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.