Chuck Close, one of the most prolific and inventive portrait painters of the last few decades, was also an innovative printmaker. For "Lyle", he chose the process of soft-ground etching.
Placing a piece of paper over the soft, waxy “ground” that covered each of twelve different metal plates, Close used a different colored pencil to make scribbled drawings on each plate. When he lifted the paper from each plate, some of the waxy ground pulled away, leaving bare metal where the pencil had made its impressions. Next, he immersed the plate in a bath of acid that etched only the bare metal exposed by the drawing.
Usually, a single print made like this, from successive printings of multiple plates, incorporates only five or six plates. Close’s impressive use of twelve plates to create this work resulted in a densely layered and colorful image.
The final image, though an image of artist friend Lyle Ashton Harris, barely reveals any intimate emotional mood or expressive feeling. Lyle’s identity is revealed instead in his process. A rainbow of tangled lines featuring a soft, gestural quality brings the surface of the prints alive with the spontaneous movements of the artist’s hand. Created in 2000, this scribble etching is hand-signed by Chuck Close in pencil in the lower margin and numbered from the edition of 60..
Chuck Close's work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, MoMA, New York, and the SFMoMA in San Francisco, CA among others. The Lyle, Scribble Etching is in the permanent collection of the Toledo Museum in Ohio.