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Galleries: CHUCK CLOSE by Mark Jenkins

Although his style has changed over the years, Chuck Close’s focus has not. He came to prominence as a portraitist and remains one, an ironic reflection of his limited ability to remember faces. Originally a photorealist, the New York artist has long experimented with other techniques, designed to simultaneously fracture and preserve the image. “Chuck Close: New Work,” at Adamson Gallery, showcases two recent strategies.

The Watercolor Prints are digitally scanned from Close originals, then printed in watercolor. The six examples in this show are overwhelmingly large — heads and shoulders more than six feet high — yet delicately hued. Each contains about 15,000 marks, with multiple colors underlying each other. Yet the dots cohere into recognizable likenesses, including a self-portrait and images of such fellow artists as Kara Walker and Cindy Sherman.

The other seven portraits, known as Felt Hand Stamps, also divide visages into an array of what might be called pixels. These smaller works are built with single-color daubs of oil paint, applied in three layers with stamps. As in all of Close’s portraits, there’s an element of the mechanical, which began with the artist’s use of photography. Yet Close’s essential subject, as well as the intricate blending of colors, makes each piece as distinctive and complex as a human face.