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Scott Blake self-portrait made with color tiles (2008) (click to enlarge) (all images courtesy the artist)

When one of the world’s richest living artists orders you to stop making art, you do it. Or do you? That is what Chuck Close has done to me. In response, I have developed a 100-year plan that will allow my digital art to outlive any threats of legal action.

I started working on my Chuck Close Filter in September of 2001. The idea came to me the month prior, when I flew to Los Angeles for the Adobe Design Achievement Awards. The creators of Photoshop gave me first place in the Creative Illustration category for my “Barcode Jesus” portrait. I felt that my creative efforts had finally been validated, even though most people still considered computer art to be a lesser medium. One person in particular, an artist whom I really admired, seemed to have a big problem with computers as vehicles for art. He referred to them as “labor-saving devices.” This was Chuck Close.

I have been working with computers (both artistically and otherwise) since 1988, when I was 12 years old. At the time, I was living in Tampa, and my uncle gave me a Tandy computer with Print Shop software. I was always driven to tinker, to figure things out, to challenge myself and make work I loved. As I got older, I started to feel an obligation to stand up for this artistic medium that I believed in. I wanted to prove all the naysayers wrong.

Allow me to explain how the Chuck Close Filter works: I start by using Photoshop to dissect Close’s portraits into hundreds of tiles. I find the original images in art books and scan them at a resolution high enough to capture the halftone dots used in the printing of color plates. Due to camera lens distortion, the portraits are never perfectly square. I then search for the faint pencil marks that Close made to define the underlying grid. Finally, I select each tile using the rectangle marquee tool in Photoshop. It takes me approximately eight hours to disassemble each portrait.

From left to right: Chuck Close’s painting of Lucas; Blake dissecting the mosaic in Photoshop; 847 mosaic tiles (click to enlarge)

Once I have all the tiles separated into individual files, I use an action script that arranges the blocks into any image I want. This automatic process took me six months to figure out. To make the portrait my own, I use the magic wand tool in Photoshop, which allows me to select a single shade of gray and then replace the pixels with my designer tiles.

From left to right: Scott Blake’s version of Lucas, version of Phillip made with Lucas tiles, self-portrait with Lucas tiles (click to enlarge)

In 2001, the speed of the internet was still very slow, and I knew I would have to wait a couple of years for the technology to catch up to my imagination. In the meantime, I experimented with creating animations using my Chuck Close Filter.

In the fall of 2002, I had the opportunity to show my work on a giant, 10-foot video wall at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Seeing a Chuck Close painting talking in real time was awesome. I began to wonder how long it would take for Moore’s Law to speed up and make it possible to create a “Chuck Close Mirror” — meaning a mirror that could render you reflecting instantly into the artist’s recognizable style.

Finally, in 2008, the internet became fast enough to accommodate the Chuck Close Filter. I registered freechuckcloseart.com in February 2008, hired a programmer to help me with the interface and made the site available to the public the next month. People could upload their own images, and in 30 seconds, the filter would render a high-resolution digital mosaic. The final images were 8 x 10 inches at 300 dpi, around 2 megabytes per file. The program was stable, but it still crashed some browsers in the beginning. These days, most people eat 2MB files before breakfast.

I have been following Close’s work for over 13 years. In 1998, I drove ten hours to see an exhibit of his at the Seattle Art Museum, and I was completely blown away. I’ve seen videos of him painting and photos of his work in progress, so I understand how he creates his images. I believe my digital mosaics were not copying his art but rather a logical extension of the creative process.

*   *   *

“Creation requires influence.” —Kirby Ferguson, Everything Is a Remix

Chuck Close Filter animation tests, aka “Chuck Close TV”

I take offense when my art is labeled derivative, even if the opinions are well-intentioned. I know it’s just a word, but my art transforms the original into something different, adding new expression over and above the earlier work. I prefer the term “appropriation,” which refers to the use of borrowed elements in the creation of a new piece.

There are other appropriation artists making a living, for instance, Sherrie Levine: she created copies of Walker Evans photographs that were identical to the originals but conceptually very different. Shepard Fairey, on the other hand, has been accused of plagiarism, and not just in regards to the the Obama “Hope” image. My favorite part of this article examining his source materials discusses Roy Lichtenstein and the distinction between appropriation and plagiarism:

When Lichtenstein painted “Look Mickey,” a 1961 oil on canvas portrait of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, everyone was cognizant of the artist’s source material — they were in on the joke. By contrast, Fairey simply filches artworks and hopes that no one notices — the joke is on you.

I never intended to rip off Chuck Close, so when he emailed me in November 2010 threatening legal action, I did exactly what he said and took my filter offline immediately. Still, I feel obligated to point out that Close is the 14th richest living artist, worth a staggering $25 million. I really don’t think any work I make is going to “jeopardize” his career or his livelihood.

Here is what he wrote (in all caps):

YOU DO NOT HAVE PERMISSION TO USE MY WORK WHICH IS COPYRIGHTED. NOR DO  WISH TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH YOUR PROJECT. YOU MUST SHUT DOWN YOUR WEBSITE IMMEDIATELY OR I WILL BE FORCED TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION.

I replied:

I have attempted to get in touch with you. I think your art is great. I drove 10 hours to see your exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum in 1998 and was blown away. I wish we had met under better circumstances. I understand you do not want me to continue my Free Chuck Close Filter, but I would like the opportunity to talk with you before you take any legal action. I believe my website is not copying your art, but rather is a logical extension of the creative process. Please consider talking with me before you make legal decision, from one artist to another.

Close wrote back:

Even if your motives are not bad, I still do not want my work trivialized. I must fight you because if I know of your project, and do nothing to exercise my legal rights, that will put me in a position where I can’t fight the next, even more egregious usage of my copyrighted image and use of my name. It may be an amusing project and many people might like it, but it is MY art that is trivialized, MY career you are jeopardizing, MY legacy, which I have to think about for my children, and MY livelihood. I must fight to protect it. I hope you will realize the harm you are doing me and my work that you claim you admire and voluntarily shut down the site so as to avoid a law-suit.

I responded:

I respect your decision, and I have shut my free online filter down. I feel obligated to help stop this from happening again. I believe it is better to respond to the situation than delete the project without any explanation. Please review http://www.freechuckcloseart.com.

He wrote:

Thank you so much for your decision. I must say I didn’t expect it. It means a lot to me that you were able to understand my point of view. Thank you. Im in Germany till the end of December, but after I’m back and if you are in New York City, come by and say hello.

The last thing I said to him was:

Thank you for accepting my sincere apology, and especially for inviting me to your New York City studio. I live in Omaha, Nebraska, but I might make a special trip just to see you.

Deep inside, I knew I had a plan; however, I wanted to give Close time to calm down and myself time to figure out a legal strategy. Luckily, I am friends with an intellectual property lawyer here in Omaha. He is very sympathetic to visual artists, and he generously gave me some excellent feedback on my situation.

Right around that time, in October 2010, CBS Sunday Morning aired a segment about Mark Twain’s autobiography.  The book was released 100 years after Twain’s death. I asked my lawyer friend if I could release my Chuck Close Filter 100 years after Close dies and his copyright runs out; my lawyer assured me that I could do so without fear of reprisal. I have not made Close aware of my plans, but if he finds out, I would be surprised if he wasn’t insulted. Don’t get me wrong, I know we will both be dead in 100 years, but the point is that our art will live on, and that is what matters to me most. We all have a legacy to think about; Chuck Close isn’t the only one.

Close is known to be very adamant about not accepting portrait commissions, so if you are not lucky enough to be one of his chosen sitters, you will never get to see your face immortalized in his signature style. I simply wanted to make his art accessible to the masses in a new and exciting way. Close is all about “process,” and I feel what I’m doing is the next logical step in that process. He makes work that looks like pixels, so why not make it out of pixels?

Writing all this down makes me feel like a wimp for not standing up to him when he first emailed me, but I took his threats seriously, and I really cannot afford to fight him in court. I respect him as an artist, but this experience has begun to make me lose respect for him as a person. I did a little research into his history and found some interesting quotes.

*   *   *

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” —Albert Einstein

Stephen Colbert interviewed Close in August 2010. When Colbert jokingly asked, “Do you ever run out of toner?” in reference to Close’s painting “Mark,” completed in 1979, Close replied, “I was there before computer-generated imagery.” This statement is categorically untrue.

In 1963, three years before Chuck Close started painting from photographs, Ken Knowlton developed the BEFLIX programming language for bitmap computer-produced movies. Each frame of Knowlton’s animations contained eight shades of grey at a resolution of 252 x 184 pixels.

Leon Harmon & Ken Knowlton, “Studies in Perception #1” (1966), computer-produced mural, as shown in the 1968 MoMA “Machine” show, 5 x 10 feet (© Leon Harmon & Ken Knowlton)

In 1966, Leon Harmon and Ken Knowlton began experimenting with computer-generated photomosaics, creating large prints from collections of small symbols. One of their images was printed in the New York Times on October 11, 1967. It was also exhibited at one of the earliest computer art exhibitions, The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City from November 25, 1968 through February 9, 1969.

Chuck Close, “Big Nude” (1967), acrylic on canvas, 9’9” x 21’1” (image via “Chuck Close” book published by Museum of Modern Art, September 2002)

Amazingly, Close painted a reclining female nude in the fall of 1967, right around the time when Harmon and Knowlton’s nude was published in the Times. Talk about synchronicity! I am shocked no one has ever made this connection before. I’m not trying to say that Close copied Harmon and Knowlton’s work; I’m trying to say that Close was not the first of his kind. The art world is an ever-evolving community. With all the art being made around the world, there are bound to be similarities. I just want to underscore that Close was not “there” before computer-generated imagery.

1973 cover of “Scientific American” on the left and Leon Harmon’s “Abraham Lincoln” (1973) on the right.

Close and the art historians that were paid to write his books like to talk about the 1973 cover of Scientific American as the first appearance of pixelated imagery. I find it hard to believe that Close never saw Harmon and Knowlton’s art or heard about the computer art show at MoMA in 1968. Close moved to New York City in the fall of 1967; his studio on 27 Greene Street was a few miles from the museum.

*   *   *

“Only those with no memory insist on their originality.” —Coco Chanel

I found another great video clip, from the Sundance Channel series Iconoclast. When Close was asked, “What is an iconoclast?” he replied, “I don’t think about the past, and I don’t think about tomorrow.” His lack of perspective and boasting about ignoring the past disgusts me. He needs a history lesson, starting with the famous quote by George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Close needs to stop perpetuating the illusion that his work is totally original.

In the same interview, Close proudly admitted that he didn’t even know what the word “iconoclast” meant. I assume the TV producer gave him the definition, to which he responded, “If it means smash your icons, I think they should be smashed with love and affection.” With my work, I am doing just that: I am smashing my icon with love and affection. Unfortunately, as a result, our work has collided.

I believe my art is fair use, but I don’t have a war chest to back up that assertion in a courtroom, so the wealthy bully wins by default. My only recourse is to publicize my defeat in order to shine a light on these types of situations. My hope is that Chuck Close develops a sense of shame and regret, realizes his mistake and offers up an apology. I want this article to serve as a point of reference for current and future artists. The worst part about this whole mess is that it makes established visual artists like Close seem petty. By not embracing new and interesting ways of making art, he is contributing to the widening of the generation gap. His irrational fear of computers has made him wildly out of touch with my generation and generations to come. I feel he singled me out because I choose to work in a medium that he finds inferior.

I think Close is confusing enterprise with creativity; they are not the same and in some cases can work against one another. In the end, I believe Close’s misguided and hypocritical actions will do more harm to his legacy than any so-called “derivative art” could ever do. His behavior has left me no choice but to carry out my 100-year plan.

This project started off as a simple college assignment and has quickly turned into a battle for visual artists’ rights. I’m fighting for creative freedom and battling against an antiquated way of thinking that is stifling a new form of artistic expression. It is inevitable, and artists like Chuck Close need to be willing to pass the torch to the next generation.

Scott Blake

While best known for his Barcode Art, Scott Blake has created new works that are scandalous, witty, fun, pornographic, humorous and about a thousand other adjectives viewers might use when seeing them for the first time. The New York Times,...

225 replies on “My Chuck Close Problem”

  1. Some artists will go to astounding lengths to shape and control “their” legacies. Cheers for calling it like it is.

    1. Very true.
      “we will both be dead in 100 years, but the point is that our art will live on”

  2. FYI: you cannot copyright a style or any technique of creating art, so developing a program that generates art in the style of Chuck Close is not violating any copyright. You can however copyright a work of art that is ‘fixed in a tangible medium of expression’ according to us copyright law, so you cannot create an exaxct copy of Close’s work or reproduce it square for square color for color.

    1. You can trademark many aspects of a style and even specifically stylized recognizable images and characters. Close would be wise to hurry up and give that a try if he has not already.

      As far as the copyright issue, he has a right to:
      1) the portions of his art that were used directly to make the new images
      2) the grid that was applied (if I understand correctly, if not — disregard)
      3) HIS NAME, possibly, depending on how it’s been used

  3. Art history is full of artists seeing the work of other artists and using it as a jumping off point. Just think of Impressionism to Post-Impressionism, Cubism to Futurism.

  4. Close has no case whatsoever. I think the only thing he can legitimately complain about is that you used his name in the name of your website.

    1. No. What he can complain about is the potential use of his name for publicity and financial gain, while potentially diminishing the perceived value of his own work.

      For those that will point out that the filter itself was offered for free, revenue could be generated by placing ads on the site. It also serves as a promotional tool for the artist, thus leading to other projects and the potential for future revenue. The word “Free” is the biggest part of the problem here. It establishes value.

      Appropriation is part of art. The filter clearly took a lot of work and has applications that go beyond replicating Close’s work. It takes his visual language, builds on it, and creates something that is indeed transformative. But language is everything. “Free Chuck Close Art”, while descriptive, does a disservice to both Close and this new endeavor. It’s a titling misstep that subverts the intention of the work.

      1. That’s what I said. The only complaint is the use of the name. He has no case against the filter itself or the fact that the resulting images resemble his own work. If Close’s name is completely removed from the name and the content of the website, there’s nothing Close can do, though he might try.

      2. Good points, Marchand: “‘Free Chuck Close Art’, while descriptive, does a disservice to both Close and this new endeavor.”

  5. Look, had this been named anything other than Free Chuck Close Art, you may have had a different response and outcome. Putting “Free” before it makes a case that you may have partially intended to circumvent or diminish the market value of Close’s work by implying that anyone could make their own Close portrait using your product, for free, rather than attempting to purchase one. Ridiculous, yes, but that’s the implication. Had it been named “Transformative Chuck Close Art” you might have established your fair use point of view and avoided the entire fracas.
    This is, incidentally, the same thing that you would want to lean on if the situation were reversed.

    1. I agree with marchand laroux and I suggest going one step further. The cost of “free” you assigned to your work does trivialize Mr. Close’s original art. It also devalues the market for his art he has worked hard to grow.

      I suggest you assign a higher price to your own algorithmic appropriations. If you do some market research you can find out the average price of a work by Chuck Close. From that information you could assign your own original appropriations a similar value which could help define an index for the economy of both his and your own work.

  6. this is a very interesting, and troubling, situation. i get that he is concerned about his legacy and doesn’t understand computer-generated works (i think he’s absorbed walter benjamin’s “art in the age of mechanical reproduction” a bit too thoroughly); i also get that you’ve progressed from scared to hurt to angry. i’d be scared/hurt/angry, too. you are part of a LONG line of capable, clever, intelligent artists who have appropriated the works of your predecessors and developed your own creations from them–it is one of the oldest traditions in art history. what close seems to be objecting to is that your filter “trivializes” (his word, not mine) his works, and of course you can sympathize with this. however, what close utterly misses is that his work, and that of all great artists, has a specific “look” that makes it a Close with a capital c. you dissected his method, created a method of replicating it, and further placed him firmly within the canon of famous artists with a signature aesthetic. there are so few artists for who this specific look is true: warhol, pollock, rothko, stella, matisse, cubist picasso (although braque is pretty damn similar), mondrian…and very few of them do portraits. your chuck close filter makes sense in that he has a specific look that can be described and assimilated. i would argue your chuck close filter actually helps his legacy rather than hurts it. and, i definitely wouldn’t hesitate to put it back up after his death, but perhaps not before as you’ve agreed not to. i could provide you with a bajillion examples of appropriated works (and you probably know many of them), but you are right–this is not new. i would look to duchamp, warhol and as you cited lichtenstein for your progenitors more than even the computer art guys of the 60s–people used to consider silk-screening as evil as close is making computer art sound. good luck, scott–thank you for writing about this.

  7. Why would you take offense to your work being called derivative when you call your website “freechuckcloseart.com”?

    It seems to me that if you hadn’t labeled your artwork as already being his you wouldn’t have yourself in such an intellectual and legal quagmire right now.

    You’re free to copy anyone’s style or methods (that’s often what art is), but call it your own. Make it your own. You decided to involve Chuck Close’s name into your work more than yours. You put in what sounds like a lot of work into your process…represent yourself.

    1. No way, the website name is part of the art. It has a range of meanings, and represents itself as it is. Plus, organic search will rank it perfectly.

      1. By those standards, people who come to the site are looking for Chuck Close’s work, not Scott Blake’s. That’s exactly what’s wrong with it.

        In order for fair use to apply an artist needs to contribute something new to the original work. Saying your artwork is a Chuck Close isn’t a bright way to avoid a lawsuit.

        1. As for using Chuck Close’s name — that doesn’t fall under copyright law. There is a body of law called “Right of Publicity Law,” which protects celebrities from having their likenesses used in ads or whatever without their permission. But my use of his name doesn’t really count unless I tried to commercialize it as a filter for Photoshop which I didn’t.

          1. That’s just not true. Right of Publicity is giant, varies from state to state and is nuanced enough so that it is applicable to more than just selling the filter in this circumstance.

          2. Copyright law includes a moral rights legislation which would apply to Chuck Close’s work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_rights_(copyright_law) “The preserving of the integrity of the work bars the work from alteration, distortion, or mutilation. Anything else that may detract from the artist’s relationship with the work even after it leaves the artist’s possession or ownership may bring these moral rights into play.” Scott’s own description of his methodology in this article is all the evidence Chuck Close needs to take him to court on all fronts, inappropriate use of his work AND name.

          3. I believe moral rights only apply to the original work. I can’t take a chuck close painting and alter it without violating moral rights, even if I bought and owned it. Since this deals with modifying copies of Close’s work, it falls under copyright law. Wether it falls into fair use is another issue.

          4. I am not sure what is it that you r doing Blake. You r talented. Do you have an artist statement?

    2. I agree with Steven Ketchum, I don’t see Blake using Close as an inspiration or following some personal work in which he uses Close as a source of research, as much as he is trying to say it differently. Having a website called “free chuck close art” as an artist is pretty risky and honestly it speaks badly about Blake’s work. You know, leaves a lot of room for questioning on the arena of what is it that he is trying to do. I see some personal work that Blake can develop, like his work with bar codes and mosaic etc but not what he is doing with Close work. I just see a computer program that makes bad copies of Close work, with no historic value. And one can see it with the Lucas portrait, the one Close did is alive whether the Blake one doesn’t say anything, that’s it, Blake’s work based on Close doesn’t say anything, the other stuff he is working does say something.

  8. Copyright is only half of the story. Any thoughts on Chuck Close NOT being there “before computer-generated imagery”?

    1. It doesn’t matter whether Chuck Close was or not “there before computer-generated imagery”. One can derive whatever they want from anyone’s style, including you and Chuck. Your only crime was using Chuck Close’s name to promote yourself. What matters is that you spent a lot of time on something that could be a lot of fun for a lot of people. Information wants to be free! Make it open-source and call it something else.

      1. What this man said. Release and make it open source now, because I highly doubt this code will have any place or meaning in the world of technology that is to come in a 100 years. If your decision is fuled by priciple, then I can understand why you would shelf the filter for ten decades. But keep in mind that by doing this you are only hurting people who actually might enjoy it now.

      2. I agree. Scott, your theory of Chuck’s disconnect with the present, past, or future is anecdotal.

        You want to introduce Chuck to the present way artist’s do things, open source the filter and move on.

    2. Who cares? Close is highly respected. No one is going to care if he happened to see other works that influenced him, perhaps even subconsciously, before he started producing his signature style. It is also very possible that he was not influenced by the earlier digital works you referenced. The problem, Scott, is that you used his name to promote yourself. If you wished to apply his name to your product, you should have gotten his formal permission. I agree with Close that promoting your filter as a way for anyone to create the Chuck Close effect does indeed trivialize his work, and inappropriately uses his hard-earned reputation to promote… YOU. Putting aside the legality of what you did, obtaining Close’s permission would have been the ethical thing to do. Lacking his permission, you could have still produced your filter without any reference to Close, you would have been recognized for your ingenuity, and you probably wouldn’t have had any trouble with Close. I routinely see young artists rip off a famous artist’s style or make strongly derivative works and call it a “tribute” or “homage,” when really what they are trying to do is to find a way to honor themselves. I suggest that you find your own original vision. Your sense of entitlement is not your friend.

    1. I think he came off as justifiably concerned about his legacy and good name, open to conversation, but firm.

      Whereas the author lied, schemed, and then bashed the man.

      Hmmmm: who looks better?

      1. If I ask someone to take their web site down because I think it’s illegal, and they say OK, I’m not going to take that as a promise to leave it down for eternity, even a hundred years after my death when it has obviously become legal. I would not call Scott’s intentions lying and scheming. Maybe a bit awkward.

  9. What is to stop someone making a program/app based on ‘Scott Blake’, and name it FreeScottBlake.com

    Would the ‘real’ Scott Blake take offense?

  10. How about Chuck Close’s name, and copyrighted work belong to him, and he wants you to stop using it, period end of story. Whether he has $25 million or $25 -stealing from him is stealing. I think it is pretty childish and shameful of you to try and stir up ill will to get your way. Chuck Close is one of the most approachable, encouraging artists out there.
    You want to use his name and work without consent – either come to an agreement with him and cough up some cash – i.e.pay the man -or take a hike.
    Your filter could be a great tool -now what are you going to use it for? Your going to put it ina drawer for 100yrs? Really? If you stopped using CC’s name and images -you could go forward. If you are stuck on using other peoples images -The Muybridge/Seurat horse and rider animation use the work of the long dead.

  11. Don’t use your wikipediaed perception of an historical situation to justify your own poor behavior. “Chuck Close and the Dawn of Digital Imagery” sound like a great art history thesis topic. Get into a AH department, write and press your case.

  12. I guess my biggest question is why do you want to do this with your time? Why not make digital art of a more original nature that might have a little tooth of its own? If I can avoid making a grand proclamation about what art is, I would at least question whether this isn’t just kind of a silly special effect. I don’t think it trivializes Close’s art as he said but it does trivialize itself. In all sincerity, if you think of yourself as an artist and this is your medium, I’d like to see you try harder. This fight only seems meaningful because you’re giving it meaning. It would mean more to most of us, your potential audience, if you push yourself into a little deeper territory. Incidentally, I don’t agree with Close’s point of view, but it’s all kind of beside the point that what you’re doing isn’t that interesting.

  13. Let’s focus on the fact that you stole the man’s name and used it to promote your filter. I think that’s the part that is reprehensible. Thinking that he would apologize to you is silly and totally blind to that fact. We can all appreciate your appreciation of his work and we can even appreciate the effort you put into finding a new way to create the work (non-toxic, environmentally sound, and digitally shareable), but you surely can’t defend the “appropriation” of his name AND style.

    Many artists make grid based work, many artists make pixelated work, many artists make bar-coded work, just like many artists made Cubist work, but they don’t say…Repainted Picasso-like Cubist Images.

    1. I disagree. I think it was completely fair to call the website that because that’s what it was, unless, and this is the tricky part, unless he actually made any money out of it. The only people who would use the filter are people who are acquainted with the original artist’s work. I think of derivative work like this as labored homage, which frankly is a compliment to the original artist.

      1. No, actually: the filter is a stylizer, much like all the other Artists filters in Photoshop: it does not produce Chuck Close artwork; it creates Close-like imagery. So, no, the name was not at all accurate. Nor fair to the artist.

  14. I have to side with Chuck Close. The the filter does trivialize his art, but not in a overly complex art historical sense. Close developed his styles as a way for him to overcome his prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces so his painting the people he loves is his way of making himself recognize them despite his Disorder. His process is deeply personal and reflective, so when you make a filter that anyone can apply to any photograph you remove the personal and make it purely decorative, which is fine, but in that case call it “pattern face” or something not related to Chuck Close. It’s late but I want to end with this analogy: it’s like taking a photograph of your daughter, you love your daughter and you love the photo because it represents her. But say someone were to take that photograph and reprints it for anyone to have because he loves the photo. There is no malicious intenet, and its just the photo, but as a parent you want to protect your daughter and what she represents to you which means, but that’s hard to do when everyone has a piece of her.

  15. Here’s the thing, to make a ‘work of art’ you have to be adding to the conversation. Personally, while the code is commendable, I don’t think being able to simulate another artist’s work on the computer is appropriation, it’s mimicking. Just changing the subject matter does not add anything to the piece…what is your concept beside “I did it on the computer and now everyone can” ? Pop artists who appropriated did so with a different medium, but had a high concept behind it. It trivializes it, he’s using the right word. It’s just like seeing the photobooths with van-gogh filters. It makes it kitsch, and unless it’s purposeful, no artist wants to become kitsch.

    I think that you have placed yourself on the end of victim. A big guy is picking on you, the little guy. But really, Chuck Close in the “real” little guy, despite having more money. He is the artist, you are the guy who is offering a derivative (yes, a derivative) of his work for free. How is this any different than a small time illustrator getting their design stolen and showing up on t-shirts with slight alterations months later? You even admitted to using his images to make the filter.

    Also, whatever Close’s comments about “being around before the computer” there is a difference between inspiration and copying. There’s no proof Close was inspired by those early computer images or even knew about them. There is proof that you are “inspired” by Close and literally copied his images by scanning them, and using his trademark, his name.

    I don’t see you finding much sympathy from artists here.

  16. The saddest thing here is that 36 year old Scott Blake had nothing better to do for a decade but develop a computer program that sorta kinda makes crappy real time virtual ersatz versions of Chuck Close paintings. That’s the single most creative way in the entire universe that he could devise to spend some 13 years of his life.

    What a total waste.

    Blake states that he “…take(s) offense when my art is labeled derivative…” Worse than derivative (which it is) is that it’s a total bore, a one liner, and complete lacks any personal vision or style. It’s just puerile, dumb programming. THAT’S what we (and Close, for that matter) should actually be offended by.

    In closing, Blake writes “…I asked my lawyer friend if I could release my Chuck Close Filter 100 years after Close dies and his copyright runs out; my lawyer assured me that I could do so without fear of reprisal. I have not made Close aware of my plans, but if he finds out, I would be surprised if he wasn’t insulted. Don’t get me wrong, I know we will both be dead in 100 years, but the point is that our art will live on, and that is what matters to me most. We all have a legacy to think about; Chuck Close isn’t the only one…” Kiddo, if this is your A-game, the very best you have to offer, your personal ‘legacy,’ then you maybe you’d better look into another field of endeavor. Because in this field, you’re pretty pathetic.

      1. I agree! It does sound personal when someone titles something “Free Chuck Close Filter,” then takes ‘offense’ when their art is labeled derivative, says he ‘never intended to rip off Chuck Close(!)’, claims Close is basically lying about his early/original sources, and to topic all off, says Close needs to develop “…a sense of shame and regret…and offers up an apology…” in addition to calling him “petty” and irrationally fearful.

        Close has overcome sensation obstacles that would hamper a non-handicap challenged person, has been a constant positive force in the NYC Art scene for multiple decades, has given generously of both his time and money to endless individuals and charitable organizations, and has been a real and consistent champion for younger Artists of all types.

        In the first case, and to Blake’s “Art,” I stand by what I said above. But to accuse a good guy being a liar, having no sense of shame or regret, demanding an apology(for what?!?),and accusing him of being petty?

        I agree Man Bartlett – that is indeed a ‘crazy beef’ and does ‘almost sound personal’

        1. I won’t take you to task on your first paragraph (I’ll leave that to the appropriation artists), but your second paragraph brings up an important point, and something that I had overlooked. While I cannot speak first hand on Close’s overall contribution to the community, it is necessary to take his dickish-sounding responses in the context of the broader picture. It’s hard/impossible to have that full picture in the context of an article, but it also shouldn’t be overlooked either.

          For my own part I am wary of blindly following the mythological narratives that artists craft while building their legacies. While much good can come of these pursuits (including the contributions you mentioned), there is often a more complex reality to the picture. A reality in which real-life individuals get royally screwed over. To be clear, I’m not saying this was entirely the case with Blake, but rather, I support the efforts taken to attempt to tell another side of the story. But more important than telling another side, is the responsibility of artists (and I’d argue humans), to attempt to live/work more transparently.

          Regardless, it is great to see so many passionate opinions being expressed.

          Lastly, apologies for my initial non-comment, and thank you for taking the time to call me out. Cheers.

          1. What was “dickish” about Closes relies? Initial outrage? Polite legal explanatioins as to why he must pursue the case? Kindly overtures when lied to?

            I think the author of this ego-massaging essay responded in a way more “dickish” manner. In fact, if the law depened upon a measure of dickishness, the author would qualify and primo porn talent!

  17. I have to agree with Mr. Close on this one. If he wishes his work not be used in a way, even as a starting point, and even if it is in a way that “transforms the original into something different, adding new expression over and above the earlier work”, it is his absolute right. It is traditional Copyright protection. The new-internet generation has embraced the Creative Commons protection, which is great for artists who opt in to the collective-mentality, but the problem is that it has become so prevalent that many artists, talented or not, think any piece of art is theirs to transform and do with what they please (including profit from), whether or not that art is protected under traditional Copyright protection. This opens the door to opportunists and hacks to create crap-derivatives. I am in no way implying that your art falls into this category – I think your art (or art-tool) is really remarkable. Would it not make sense for you to ask the original artist for permission, instead of vilifying him in an article after the fact? Or create your own. Or use art that’s specifically been designated with the Creative Commons licensing. It’s not an antiquated, or out of touch philosophy at all. Artists have been exploited throughout history, and I don’t see Mr. Close as the bully. He’s protecting his life’s work. You’re using, and profiting from his name and style. I believe it’s each artist’s right not to have someone (usually with less talent) use it, or exploit it for their own personal gain. It is not an antiquated philosophy, it is the very concept of authorship.

  18. if your URL is freechuckcloseart.com YOU ARE A HACK. Chuck Close may be rich and ubiquitous, he could be more evil than Dick Cheney, but that doesn’t make it ethical to slap another artist’s name on your filter and call this your art. Chuck Close was a class act, inviting you to his studio. The amount of invocation of Chuck Close as a bully, as rich, as pompous and so forth shows how little substance is backing your position. Break it down to only the actual issue of whether or not you’re infringing on Close’s work and your argument doesn’t hold water. Interesting that instead of continuing actually direct communication with Chuck Close, you wrote this whiny screed and devised your laughable 100 year plan.

    A filter is not a “new form of artistic expression” and it is not “derivative art”. Photoshop’s been around for a while now. The only person who seems petty in this one sided argument is Scott Blake. I am confused as to what Chuck Close is supposed to be shamed into apologizing about, but I’m fairly sure he’ll spend his time laughing all the way to the bank instead.

    1. so @twitter-46679638:disqus yr idea is that “laughing all the way to the bank” is to be defended as victorious?

  19. It is most definitively a creative process to design a computer program that applies an artistic concept to an image. Creativity is in its core is to apply combinations well known ideas in an unexpected way.

    Using the filter, as an end user, might not nescessarily involve a lot of creativity, depending on how much input the user can give, but the _concept_ of such a filter is most definitely an artistic statement, reflecting on what art itself is, and more specifically an investigation in what Chuck Close art is.

    The intresting questions this asks is: What is special about Close’s art? CAN his original work be reduced to an algorithm, or does it have a quality beyond that? If it has, then it is intresting to examine what that quality actually is. Yes, I understand if Close is upset if he suspect his art actually can be reduced to just a technique, but is that true?

    One important purpose of art, in my view, is to ask intresting questions about the world we live in. A filter like this is meta-art, it asks an intresting question about art.

    1. If only. If only the purpose of the chuck close filter were to challenge the production of grid art. What you’ve done here is give fan art a tweak and offer a spin that just could work in court if only the digital artist himself hadn’t already claimed that this was not at all his purpose.

      Of course you all know, the Prince v Cariou case is addressing the issue of the artist’s claimed intent. If the case goes for Prince, then the author of this shameless screed will stand an even better chance in court.

      All that’s just dandy. I only wish one thing: that two thirds of this article had gone another way: that he’d told Close that he disagreed with him and would find a way to challenge him.

      The law, however, doesn’t discriminate against douchebaggery and so this guy might just be able to make his case. Best of luck to him.

  20. i haven’t read much, but basically someone wants to stop the AI-zation of their job, well they can’t. Sooner or later pretty much every job apart from (doctors, creative’s thinking of ways to impact millions of consumers, filmmakers etc few exceptions) will be done by either a robot or a piece of software. Boo hoo.

    1. Maybe a robot or software will put in more effort reading the entire article before posting comments?

    2. That is like saying those photo booths filters look anything like a warhol or a van gogh. But just because it doesn’t look “anything” as good as Close’s doesn’t mean it isn’t copying it. You can not in any way replace Close’s paintings, there is no way he can be replaced by a machine. There is no freedom for happy accidents or spontaneity, where so much of the real “magic” comes in. So it that regard, yes, he he making a “new” piece in the way that it is a butchered imitation of the originals.

  21. Chuck close has worked with technology and computers for years to produce portraits. Particularly in his late career when we started making tapestries and such and work with less physical demands. It is not technology or your medium he finds disturbing or inferior, etc. It is the use of his name, style, and brand. It is not personal or as complicated as this article makes it out to be. He invited you to his studio; that seems pretty well meaning, respectful, and generous to me.

  22. I wonder if Mr. Close has a patent on his work / technique?

    What is a patent?

    A patent is a property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.Patents are granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).There are times when you may desire a combination of copyright,patent and trademark protection for your work. You should consult an attorney to determine what forms of intellectual property protection are best suited to your needs. (source: http://www.uspto.gov/main/faq/stopfaq.htm#patent)

  23. I’m curious, Scott, did you assume you’d get mostly support when posting this here? Are you surprised at the amount of hostility ? I ask because I’m often surprised at the deep conservatism of many artists, not just politically, which isn’t so surprising, but culturally and aesthetically as well. Private property, “legacy,” the concept of the inviolate genius are all regularly and vigorously defended on this and other art related blogs. When one of the staff of this blog suggested that the Picasso tagger might have a bit something else to him besides just being a vandal, several people rose up in indignation. It probably shouldn’t surprise me–most artists come from the middle class and are so likely to reflect middle class values–but it still does. In any case, I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, maybe you have a broader idea of the artistic makeup than I do, but I thought I’d ask. Also, in case it might be an issue, I don’t think of “conservative” as a bad word outright. I’m more curious about this conservatism than critical, though there is some amount of criticism involved.

      1. It surprises me, for what it’s worth I think you should change the name nd re-release it Scott and ignore all these pathetic critics who are probably just jealous when it comes down to it.

      2. Of course YOU consider YOURSELF a ‘progressive.’ Congrats on that razor sharp assessment. The real progressive here, however, is Close. Your work is actually terribly anachronistic and ‘quaint’ in comparison.

    1. The “hostility” here is partly about LYING and PRETENDING, then BRAGGING shamelessly about it, then BASHING a man who’d invited you to his studio.

      It’s also, not so much about originality and genius as about depth and focus.

      Why is that as soon as someone says “appropriate” every more-radical-than-thou gets all laissez faire on us?

      Psst, h2taa: Say “appropriate”!

        1. I mean, this, like Prince V Cariou, all comes back to (theoretical) money/publicity/etc. The actual image appropriation has little, if anything, to do with the legal issue in the end.

      1. dear ALLCAPS, whatcha screaming about on the internet? how is @facebook-517549527:disqus doing what you accuse him of?

        1. All cappping one word is not screaming. It’s stressing.
          How’s he doing what I accuse him of? Er, did you READ what he wrote?

          1. I have to say, I did read what he wrote, multiple times, in fact, and I don’t see the lying, bragging, or bashing—and definitely not in all caps.

  24. I agree with Mr Close and I am glad he had the power to stop you from ripping him off. It sounds like you are very bitter now and my suggestion is that you go buy yourself a set of oil paints and learn how to paint. Maybe take a class.

  25. Personally I think Chuck Close is being overly precious about his work and your computer process. I think your choice of his name in the naming of the filter has been done so out of respect for his work, which you clearly admire. If you had taken an artist name for publicity reasons there are other names that would be far more readily known. My art has been tattooed on people out of a desire of both tattooist to use and tattooed to ‘wear’ my art. This has been done without permission from me and I consider it an honour (that someone would wish my work permanently on their bodies). In my opinion Mr Close needs to take a step back and get some perspective.

  26. So, you take an original work, cut it up into tiny pieces, and reorder them as you see fit. You’re not an artist. You’re a producer!

  27. Scott I was with you… up until the point where you ‘sincerely’ apologized then started formulating a plan for further legal action against him. I actually find that more disrespectful than the initial act. It seems that ‘giving our word’ no longer means anything.

  28. The late Steve Jobs spent an enormous portion of his career suing and being pissed off at Bill Gates for ripping off the OS that he had previously ripped off from Doug Engelbart. Don’t wait for Chuck Close to admit that he wasn’t touched by the hand of god and that he was actually influenced by other artists. Is there a difference between “influence,” “inspired,” “derivative,” and “ripped off?” I think Banksy had it about right when he scratched Picasso’s name off that “Great Artists Steal” quotation and etched his own name in. Of course FreeChuckCloseArt.com was the perfect name for your website.

    If you recall the 2009 film Julie & Julia, Julie Powell worships Julia Child and arguably understands her better than almost any of her legion of followers, yet Child is dismissive of Powell and Powell’s dreamt for meeting never happens.

    (I think Powell never meeting Child or receiving any approval from her, AND publishing her book, is a better outcome than you flying yourself to NYC to spend a few minutes in Close’ studio AFTER you take down your website)

    In retrospect, it was probably too much for Powell to expect any sort of recognition or approval from Child. What’s nice about the story is that even though Powell is dismissed by Child, Powell manages not to dismiss Child. Powell’s book does get published and the film ends with Powell admiring Child’s kitchen at the Smithsonian.

    The reality is, you understand Chuck Close far better than Chuck Close will ever understand you. But Close is also a citizen of the 20th century and you are a citizen of the 21st century. Even if you met him, you’d still be in different worlds.

  29. I agree with Steven, Holiday and to some extent, Amer. Open source it and don’t take any credit for the time you spent developing the program; that’s what you’re asking Close to do. I found it very gracious that he invited you to his studio. And, yes, you’d be thrilled if someone created “freescottblake.com” because your only notoriety so far is a whiny missive on hyperallergic, no offense hyperallergic, I like you.

  30. While the how of art, technique and presentation, take talent and skill, the what of art, images of humans and the world we inhabit, is far more an indicator of a real artist rather than an imitator.

  31. Awww… poor baby… the artist you and making derivative knock-offs of called your derivative art derivative.

  32. After reading the article and the pro and con comments I have reached the conclusion that both artists are right and wrong at the same time. Almost a quantum mechanical positioning.

    It’s too bad a Détente couldn’t have been reached here. If both artists had more similar senses of humor and less similar egos a very interesting collaboration could have been in the making.

    Then there is the interesting point; will we even be using computers in 100 years? Filters may be inept by then.

    Perhaps you should be designing a “____________” (insert whoever’s name) cerebral implant that allows users to see/hear/smell/taste the world in the form/style/nature of “____________”‘s work (with their permission, of course, and perhaps even their financial backing). Or how about a chip/implant/robotic prosthetic that enables the user to execute other kinds of projects (surgical, culinary, athletic, etc.) in the style of “____________”?

    Why focus on artists? How about animals or robots? What I wouldn’t give to be able to see with the sharpness of an eagle or repair a watch like a master… or build a robot that does both.

    Such research and creativity could have spawned various useful inventions.

    I like both artists’ work. I have been following both of their careers for a while now. Launching a “temporal war” that may not even have a platform come “go time” instead of launching into an unknown, perhaps world changing, alliance is a missed opportunity for all.

  33. Where can I get the filter? I’m going to use it to make something better than Chuck Close ever did.

  34. Oh give me a break. It is a fucking Photoshop filter. It is not some kind of LEGACY. it’s a computer tool that is at best a novelty and has no real use, other than to fabricate Chuck Close’s style.

  35. I think it’s great that you have the talents and ability to create such a filter. But I do see Chuck Close’s point, and agree with him. You did the right thing in taking down your filter, and obviously have some resentment about it, otherwise you wouldn’t be bringing it up now. Move on, do something else, and let the man and his art be.

  36. just make a new website. call it fuckchuckclosesart.com and make it a parody. go down in a blaze of glory larry flint style.

  37. All right, all ridiculous arguments aside I’d like to question whether or not the original email was from Chuck Close. It seems to me that the man has better things to do that write ALL CAPS LOCK cease and desist letters to the internet.

  38. …the quote ” Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery ” comes to mind…. and I believe Mr Blake is very sincere here,… and Mr Close should be very flattered.
    ( on a different angle – I suggest changing the grid format to . . . say the Bridget Riley or EscherArt.com filter. )
    and, c’mon folks – 99% of “art” is derivative.
    The “derivative” / interpretive field is wide open to creative application.
    I applaud your scientific / deductive efforts Mr Blake.

  39. What a shock: A guy who spent his life developing a style that set him apart in the cut-throat (not to mention lucrative) art world of the 70s and 80s, one that is immediately recognizable and not only made him a wealthy man, but also does an incredible job at doing exactly what good art is supposed to do for people, getting pissed at a guy who directly took his art and digitally cut it up so that a computer program you wrote could instantly create a knock-off piece in seconds.

    And you, a fellow “artist,” not only fails to see why he is defensive, but takes true offense because he stood up and ordered you to stop? Which is his right as an American citizen?

    The whole essay sounds to me like it was written by a little boy who made a tree house for his major crush, but they refuse to climb on up and check it out and now his little feelings are hurt. Basically you’re arguing he has no case (or he shouldn’t be so upset) because no art is original.

    Bullshit.

    The Lichtenstein example you use holds no water. He used Mickey and Donald to subvert the popular characters — characters that were used to promote WWII, used to sell crap and candy to kids and the screwed up world of Disney. He took something extremely popular and made it something different and caused people to step back and not only question that, but the essence of “art.”

    You complain that Close is extremely careful who he has sit for him without acknowledging that that is an important component to his body of work as his style. In fact, you complain about it and offer that as one reason the site should stay up, to let everyone play Chuck Close with whatever they want.

    It doesn’t feel like theft to me, but something else I can’t quite get to. But I know what it doesn’t feel like to me, it doesn’t feel original, compelling or anything near artistic. It feels like a form of plagiarism, only the letters you were using aren’t the letters all of us can use to speak and write and create stories by changing the way they are placed, you took a language created by Close, these hieroglyphs that took him years and years to painstakingly make, took a digital knife to them, and decided you had the right to give everyone access.

    Doesn’t fly as art in my book. It’s cute and fun, but lame.

    You messed up and insulted someone you admire and he told you off. That hurts. It doesn’t feel good to feel powerless, but your naivety is to blame.

    I’m sure the Andy Warhol Museum would have responded the same way if you decided to honor Warhol this way, too.

    And you’re trying to use a few quotes to show just how big of a jerk he is? Come on man! Four decades of work and you’re trying to knock his down a few notches for your own personal satisfaction.

    Nope, doesn’t work. And no one will care in a 100 years that they could access your little website. In fact, I doubt the computers of the future will be able to run it.

  40. Let’s see. Maybe you could dissect a Monet painting (once you took a picture of it and looked for those pencil marks he leaves behind) and create a new filter. You’d have to call it something different than a Monet filter though. In case his estate might sue. (see Disney) How about something general like an “Impressionist” filter. Oh. Somebody already did that.

    Well, maybe you could go work in a very large Asian country where they produce (copy) artwork by hand, assembly line style and show them how a computer could do it faster. Oh. You haven’t figured out how to make computers paint. With real paint.

    Well, how about getting a Rolex watch, taking it apart, then make copies of the parts, but make them cheaper and not as good, then make a bunch of them and give them away or sell them real cheap because you can. Oh, and if you can’t make the parts as good (even though you took it apart and looked at them very, very closely) just throw in some better digital components (because technology is what you know). Oh, but keep the Rolex name on the outside, otherwise people won’t know what (style) they are buying. I’m sure everyone will want one.

    I bet you could even get some consulting gigs around taking something that someone else created, pulling it apart, and sort-of put it back together, but different. You could even call it something fancy, like, “reverse-engineering”.

    Or maybe you do have something here. Like the really fancy computer algorithm you took 6 months to figure out that makes pictures out of pictures like those old programs (and programmers) used to do with 128 ASCII characters except you can do it better now that you have millions of colors to work with and Photoshop.

    Yes, very original. And creative.

  41. Here is the crux of the problem: the name of your website.
    “Free Chuck Close Art”.

    Don’t you think that that suggests to people that this website is a place to get free CHUCK CLOSE Art?

    Not free CHUCK CLOSE-like art or free CHUCK CLOSE-esque art, but free CHUCK CLOSE art?

    Seriously, you don’t see the name of the website as a problem?

    What if I had a website called “Free Steven King books” or “Free Madonna Music”?

    Would that be fair to Steven King or Madonna?

    ALL you had to do is call the site “The Chuck Close Simulation Machine” or something like that.

    I think your artwork is AMAZING and INSPIRING! I do!
    and I’m totally perplexed how someone so visually creative, can also be so blind?

      1. I stand corrected and will reword:
        One more thing – if Hypoallergenic had named the article “Scott Blake Has a Problem” I don’t think I would have come here to read the article.

  42. For me you cross the line not just with your name for the site but with your use of Close’s photos of Lucas Samaras and Philip Glass. There are times when I do believe that photos and images should be part of the commons. This is not one of them. Close has evolved a hermetic and spare visual language which includes these specific images of these friends of his which he owns in any legal sense and they shouldn’t be considered an appropriation (by the way for the record while I don’t know Mr. Glass one of my favorite sketchbook themes is imaginary portraits of him and I do work from — usually four or five portraits at a time. I haven’t yet come up with a good model sheet but I’m working on it. It’s fun to treat him as a character in traditional animation and copy the proportions of the photographs ONLY before situating a figure with his features on the ocean floor or floating in the air. However and again part of my process is always removing as much of other peoples “proprietary” baggage — clothes, lighting, angles –as possible with the use of traditional animation model sheets and the few images that survive don’t look much like him. Hence this is not at all what you are doing).

    The coincidence of the two nudes ignores the prevelance of the motif of the nude woman in post-war American figurative art. Even De Koonig’s Abstract Expressionist work featured a LOT of women. There isn’t much about Close you aren’t taking, and this doesn’t look like just one project — it’s all derivative and he’s within his rights.

  43. Well, you got the media attention you wanted, Mr. Blake. Quite frankly, you come off as a self-centered twit who, when caught red-handed with his hand the cookie jar, justifies the act by saying the cookie maker already had enough dough. Your arguments are specious and have no value in a conversation about creativity. Mr. Close approached you originally with strong legal and moral justification. He even extended an olive branch. You decided to leverage the situation to your own public relations advantage – thus doing Mr. Close wrong once again. I wish the arts media would stop pushing this story around.

  44. I’m sorry, but your article is spiteful and you are bragging about misleading a man who tried to be very reasonable with you.

    I want to point out that he took the time to engage and to even try to elucidate a particular legal problem that all artist have when their trademark styles or their copyrighted images are used. He wrote to you “I must fight you because if I know of your project, and [if I] do
    nothing to exercise my legal rights, that will put me in a position
    where I can’t fight the next, even more egregious usage of my
    copyrighted image and use of my name.”

    This is true, actually, and poses a big problem to any artist who cares to preserve their name and legacy: if you don’t fight all issues, you will face trouble in court when you DO try to fight one. So their hand is forced, in a way.

    Now I’m not talking to your own legal rights: you may have a fair use claim if you don’t use the man’s name in future. ANd I’m not talking about your creative rights either: those are another issue. What I am talking about is integrity and good will.

    The man had a point and you really should address it: he needs to take legal action whenever it is called for or face difficulty with, or even lose, his right to do so in future. If you can say, to his face, that you see his point but still wish to challenge him, then you are doing the right thing.

    But to respond to his openess by writing an article bragging about your craven subterfuge and bashing the man for his opinions about digital art, etc: well, that’s just horrid.

    1. Actually, he’s not correct. If you don’t defend a TRADEMARK, it can become generic (although even that is not guaranteed). You don’t have to defend COPYRIGHT. For that matter, he could just grant this guy a non-exclusive license and be done with it.

      There is definitely a question of artistic integrity here but there’s also more than a small helping of outright greed.

      1. It’s not the copyrght issue that’s the real bother when it comes to the pursuit argument: Close may indeed have a trademark and/or a trademark strategy. We don’t know. And it is THAT which really, as you said, depends on a consistent use and defense.

        I don’t think greed is Close’s issue and I think the insinuation is likely unfair. Legacy, market impact, and the use of his name for gain and profit are likely the issue.

        Mind you, Chuck Close owes nothing to this guy at all. He doesnt’ have to respond to the theft of his good name with a non-exclusive lisence.

        What people seem confused about here is the issue of what successful people owe to fans, the public, the masses, whatever: the answer is nothing.

        A knows B because B is famous. A knocks on B’s door and B doesn’t answer. A knocks the door down. B responds with a lawsuit. A puts the door back up, apologizes and then goes into the street to organize a gang to beat A up.

        1. No one things “successful people” owe their fans or public anything. That’s something gestating in your own head. Chuck Close also can’t stop others from swiping, remixing or building upon his style … which isn’t exactly just his.

          1. I beg to differ, Hrag: many here seem to think that Chuck Close owed this guy a lot more attention and respect AND even a lisence to use his name and portions of his paintings.

            I find it troublesome.

            Chuck Close has a case if it goes to court. Perhaps the author does too: though he’s mucked it up quite a bit.

            But as to who behaved badly here, I’d say it was the author. I can’t help but find it appalling that some seem to find that difficult to see.

            He used Chuck Close’s name, not just used it, but the title Free Chuck Close art seems to imply an endorsement and even involvement on the case of Chuck Close: of course Mr. Close would respond with a c&d!

            Then he claimed he was backing down when he was plotting.
            Then he published private correspondance in a screed full of obnoxious accusations.

            I’d rather live in a world where people DO find such behavior appalling and say so.

            That said, I’ve said perhaps way too much and I”m stepping off.

          2. I’m assuming you’re against appropriation art, in general, this is the name of the game. I don’t think it’s odd that an artist when presented with a threat — and I’m sorry, what Close did to an artist without the same means IS a threat that could’ve embroiled him in very expensive legal wrangling — is to find a way for the art to live outside of any legal limitations. I think that’s very normal.

          3. Hrag, Sorry,I have to reply:
            Did you read my e-mail to you before you posted this?
            Because by now I know you know that I”m not against appropriation art.
            I love Jeff Koons, Shep, and early Richard Prince.
            I love mirco pop and old pop — Lichtnestien, Warhol, Rosenquist…
            I love the cultural echoes in early to mid Cindy Sherman and the Cindy Sherman echoes in Alex Prager.
            I’m a sucker for Scooter LaForge’s Popeye paintings, love all the cross marketing between fashion and art, and have no sacred cows at all.
            I tease and mock my faves and favor my least liked with compliments when I think they are due.

            It’s not the filter that irks: it’s the bad manners. It’s not manning up.

            As I said, the author could have behaved better, to put it mildly.

  45. Release it as open source. Put it up on GitHub and let people fork it. After all, you hold the rights to your code.

  46. i never liked chuck close, i always thought, someones just gonna do this
    mad easily with computers and boom there it is.. i bet if i search the
    internet hard enough i can find another chuck-closerizer.

    you are stressing out about shitty grafix that blow – just make
    something new.

    chuck close sucks, you kinda suck but i like you better, donno why,
    prolly cuz chuck close is famous and has a huge pot belly full of
    money… and he really does just do easy tomake portraits… my art
    class in 7th grade we all made chuck close portraits. fuck chuck close
    hes so easy to do. easy as a whore on the north shore – whattabore

    one time at the Met in the mod art section i saw a kid from a class
    group touching and sorta picking at the chuck close portrait, then a
    guard yelled at him. if i was the guard i would let everyone have a
    piece of the chuck close’s so that way he could come in and remake it
    and show everyone how easy it was to make (cuz its in a grid – whatta baby).

    Chuck close is fat, white, and has white hair. I hate him. fuck his art. it suX.

  47. Who. The. Fuck. Cares.

    I see the artsy fartsy crowd is out in full force on this one.

    It’s a filter. The only thing wrong with this is that he made his website have his name in it. Close probably wouldn’t have even seen this if that wasn’t the case. Close can go fuck himself, art is free, and style is subjective. Just because I decide I want to paint a picture in shit, doesn’t mean it’s fair to legally ban everyone from picking up a turd and making a painting of their own.

    This whole trend of “it’s my money, MINE,” is so annoying it’s not even funny anymore. This isn’t about legacy, and this isn’t about reputation. It’s about his family getting paid because he lucked out, and he wants them to stay paid. Case closed.

  48. Blake comes off as an attention whore though, I will admit. I don’t think anyone handled this right. It’s just a bickering match between two uppity nitwits.

  49. The only problem I see with using Chuck Close’s name is I’m the only artist he’s going after for using his name.

  50. What strikes me about this whole post is that even when (seemingly) pissed, even in his initial response, Chuck Close gave this guy an opportunity to desist without cost, reasons for his reaction (not wanting to be associated, etc), and didn’t immediately – or apparently at any point – refer the matter to counsel or staff. Others have pointed out that the offer to visit his studio was the act of a class act. All the more reason for him to protect his name – cause it’s a good one.

    So yeah Blake, I don’t care much for the style of Mr. Close’s art, but, well, I do have quite a bit of respect for the *man* now. There’s a reason no one here gives a damn about your excuse that “he has money.” He has money and isn’t a dick. He has plenty basis to sue (and win) over your past actions. A suit would bleed you dry. He’s not doing that. He given you an invitation to his space, a rare opportunity for /anyone/ and one of the most gracious acts an artist of any – but especially his – stature can proffer. You could have gone, visited, maybe interviewed him, LEARNED SOMETHING, written a piece about that, and then sold *that* story as a freelancer and gotten a cool anecdote, thanking him, apologizing for using his name, and maybe even getting some positive press and connections.

    Instead, you respond by publicly presenting a private email exchange, demonizing him, presenting your “brilliant” legal plan for a filter no one really cares about and invoking dubious precedents; while accusing /him/ of needing a history lesson – which you are (self)qualified to teach. Well, let me tell you something historical. You have created a reverse Streisand Effect.

    I suggest we call it a Blake Blunder.

    When it comes to putting email exchanges into the public forum, you better be legally right and morally right and not a dick. To sum up:

    Chuck Close: 3
    You, a zero.

    No one is stopping you from making your “art.” Just stop attaching his name to everything you do.

    Write a fucking apology before it gets worse, you twit.

    WTF hyperallergic?

  51. Perhaps in 100 years your absurd article will be cited at the bottom of the Wikipedia entry for Objectivism.

    1. I find the moral indignation of some of the commenters bizarre. I think most of it comes from this strange cult people have for artists they like. That aside, I’m very happy you chimed in. Soo many great points. Btw, I vote “relic of an age soon to be forgotten.”

      1. Glad to hear it, that helps justify the two hours it took to write it. I don’t care very much about Close’s work either way, but some of the attitudes expressed in the comments deserve rebuttal.

        1. Just curious: what is the proper conduct of a citizen of the 21st Century? Who makes that call (especially in 2012), and in what ways has it changed from the 1970’s?

          I like a bunch of the questions and points you posed at the end there.
          Personally, I’m similarly ambivalent about Chuck Close’s work. And Scott
          Blake’s filter here seems like just another novelty filter among many.
          Still, programming is work and can definitely be creative and legit and
          ball-busting/mind-blowing/original/all the rest. Who cares about literal
          fingerprints …. touching objects was only ever a fraction of
          object-based work anyway. Now what? This whole filter thing sounds more
          like The Chipmunks than Negativland. Not even vintage Chipmunks. More
          like one of the sequels.

          Does this whole ‘is it art?’ fascination still have teeth?

          Isn’t ‘is it good?’ a more interesting question by a long shot? Good/bad
          debates are more stirring and meaty and challenging, I think (even if
          its just a private internal debate, its all good).

          Sheesh … that ‘but is it art?’ diversion is totally one of the
          obsessions I wouldn’t mind leaving with the 20th century. It’s tedious
          and it practically begs for diminishing returns, in my opinion. Gimme a
          nude beach any day of the week instead — even an empty one! At least
          it’s spilling over with potential excitement.

        2. Agreed 100%. The outrage and anger directed at Scott seem entirely disproportionate with the essay and the situation.

      2. Nah: I laugh my ass off when Jeff Koons sues over balloon dogs, or when Shep’s gang attacks some poor guy with a sports mascot that says “OBEY” — and I like both of those artists. So, no, I don’t think it’s about fandom.

        Look: the guy leveraged Close’s name. Created a filter that implies a criticism of Close’s art but claimed to be a fan. ANd then pretended to back down and be freindly when confronted. And then wrote a bashing screed online. Some of us just see this as ugly behavior.

        How this can be controversial is just mind-bending to me.

        What if the filter king here had responded to Close by saying the things he published here? And what if he didn’t simultaneously claim to be a big fan and a mocking hater but instead made his artist’s statement consistent and intellgent? Or what if he’d discussed the issue with Close and worked out a deal (or, in the end, failed to)? Or what if he’d pivoted, called the site Free “Chuck Close-style Simulator”…

        There are many ways this guy could have presented a better face.

      3. A little late to this party, but I can explain at least my own distaste at this article. Blake presents very few facts about the situation. All he says is that he created a filter, put it up on line calling it “free Chuck Close art,” got a non-legally-binding request from Close, albeit in all caps, asking him to pull it down or he will seek legal action and then, after a little back and forth, decided to take the site down without forcing any legal action.

        Now, is he right in this situation? Maybe, we don’t know because he chose not to pursue any legal recourse to decide on whether or not what he did constituted fair use. If anything, the one time he references seeking legal advice it muddies the water and even gave the slightest implicit acknowledgement that it wasn’t a cut and dried case of the big, bad, rich and famous artist quashing the little guy’s rights.

        From there, it just became a character attack on Close, basically calling him a hypocrite and a bully. Which, again, may very well be the case but Blake never forced the matter, and no mention was made of whether or not Close was contacted for comment. If you believe that there are three sides to this argument, Blake’s, Close’s and the truth, we don’t get the other two.

        Instead we get a plea from a disgruntled alleged former fan for pity. And Blake didn’t present his case for pity strongly enough for me. If he’d focused more on the facts of why Close was wrong in this situation instead of saying he’s a hypocrite and liar who should be ashamed of his actions and apologize, I’d be more interested in what he has to say.

        1. I think Blake is still a fan of the art, not necessarily the man. Not sure where you’re getting the pity part? I think a lot of people think Close is arcane in his understanding of new media and our remix culture. Blake’s article does a good job IMHO of pointing out that claims of “originality” are fictions that artists often create to justify their achievements. I don’t think Close did anything all that original but that’s not to say many of his works aren’t strong.

          And the post is a first-person narrative, and anyone reading this will understand the subjectivity that represents.

          Your reading is as subjective as Blake’s narrative. I hope you see that.

          1. I do. But I just felt that without a counterpoint from Close’s camp, and with few facts regarding the crux of Blake’s complaint presented, it came off to me more as an appeal for pity than a call to justice.

            I wasn’t going to reply, but when I saw you questioning why people were having such a visceral response against Blake’s account, I thought I’d present a viewpoint that neither lauds nor condemns Close, since neither he nor a proxy was able to respond.

            As I said, and believe because no one is above reproach, Blake’s account may very well be accurate and Close may very well have overstepped his legal rights in this situation to protect this vague thing called his “brand.” I just didn’t see enough hard evidence to support it, so all the subsequent points about how Close himself may be disingenuous about his own influences came off as petty rather than illuminating to me.

    2. “Point C has already been addressed.” Sorry, but copyright is the whole story here, as Close explained in his messages. Calling him a dick or dismissing other posts as misplaced moral indignation is beside the point.

      1. I beg to differ. Not only are there many existing precedents and common sense arguments for what Blake has done, his software clearly falls under the rubric of being a transformative work. Unlike Mr.Prince he didn’t just blank out faces and add electric guitars, he created a very different piece altogether: It’s in a different medium (pixels vs. paint), produced by a completely different process (algorithms vs. the painter’s hand.) and – excepting the cases where Blake has created his own versions of specific Close paintings – the images his mechanism produces are dictated by the input material, which is arbitrary but likely to differ from Close’s.

        His mechanism also does not reproduce significant portions of any existing work – Blake describes sampling “tiles” from Close’s work, but the tiles are tiny compared to the overall image surface. I’m not sure why he decided to create his own versions of specific works, but even in those cases his images are verifiably different (and transformed) from the original.

        And guess what? A strong case could be made for freechuckcloseart.com being a work of satire (it sure sounds like one), for which fair use is strongly protected under law.

        Finally, as other commenters have pointed out, styles and artistic ideas are not yet protected by copyright. If they were, we would only ever have one Cubist painter, one Pointillist and one Color Field painter (or rather the future equivalents of similarly distinct styles – interpolate creatively.)

        Apple style litigation would hand the crown to whatever artist has the biggest litigation war chest.

        Wouldn’t that be a fun art world to live in? “Your painting is rectangular with slightly rounded edges, thus it is clearly a derivative of my own rectangular painting with slightly rounded edges”.

        The real legal issue here is David vs. Goliath: Even if Close has no case, Blake can’t afford the lawyers to argue his case in court or have his life disrupted by endless motions filed by Close’s lawyers. Cease and desist is a bitch. Even if you’re right you’re wrong, unless you have a cool $1M defense fund to back you up.

        So can we now agree that the mention of copyright here really is just a thinly veiled justification for saying “I no likey”?

        1. No, we can’t agree. Close has merely done what is legally required to protect his copyright in his work.

          1. The odd thing is that Close has enforced his copyright irregularly. There are many other projects that use his “style” to create works. A simple Google search will reveal them.

          2. I just did a quick google and was amazed, though it’s hardly surprising. The argument of having to enforce copyright seems even weaker in the light of what a simple Google Image search turns up, especially when it includes plenty of
            appropriations slash imitations created for clearly commercial purposes.

          3. Not really, Hrag: google Koons and you’ll find a bazillion balloon dog things; but his legal team choses what to pursue; some slips through the cracks and some is just too inconsequential to pursue.

          4. Unfortunately that doesn’t guarantee you can keep your copyright as the Koons balloon dog case proved. This project was no more well known than the other ones.

          5. Oh, right, that. You’re absolutely correct, no two ways about it. Copyright law does require copyright owners to be unreasonable, paranoiac and borderline mean. “I couldn’t possibly allow you to create a Chuck Close pinata for your precocious 10 yr old’s birthday party, I might lose the right to defend my copyright.”

            That still does not mean copyright law would actually prohibit Blake from creating his piece, it merely justifies Close playing it lawyer safe and sending a cease-and-desist. That the net result is the stifling of artistic expression through legal bullying is just the way things should be, right?

          6. Sarcasm and more far-fetched and mostly irrelevant examples don’t make your case any stronger. But since you apparently have more time on your hands than I do, I’ll let you have the last word.

          7. I’m sure the courts would allow the silly pinata. Come now.
            What Close argued was entirely correct.
            And the fact that some silly stuff has slipped through the cracks does not preclude his right nor his need to pursue the issue when it looks important.

        1. A claim of fair use by Blake might stand, but the law is unsettled and this particular case is complicated and differs from the precedents mentioned here in important ways. There are four criteria that govern fair use and nothing in this article suggests that the author considered how they might apply to his project before putting it online. On the contrary, he has done a number of things that would probably undermine his case for fair use, including calling his Website “freechuckcloseart.com.”

    3. Point D: Nothing wrong with derivative art, but something wrong with subterfuge, cowardice, and spite. He never once approached Mr. Close with an honest assessment of his art, his copyright claims, his concerns. Instead he lied, avoided confrontation — not JUST on a legal front, but also on a theoretical one, then he took his secreted aggression out by writing an insulting and hypocritical (given his former praise and FAN art) screed agains the man who had just invited him for a chat.
      I don’t understand how anyone could support such weak, cowardly behavior.
      How’s that for outrage?
      Fuck the author’s pathetic attempt to call his filter “art”: a court of law, and even an art snob might forgive that.
      It’s the sad success-bashing mentality and lame spite that I find so disgusting.

      1. The problem with asking for permission is you often won’t get it. Blake does mention unsuccessfully trying to contact Close prior to the desist letter.

        I’m impressed that you hold artists to such high moral standards. Most of the artists I know are just like most people – flawed and imperfect.

        1. It’s not “such a high moral standard” to ask that one be upfront and not lie about one’s intentions and not pretend to be freindly while secretly planning to slander your good name. That’s not a strict demand: it’s simple human decency. I even respect hypocrisy when it isn’t craven and duplicitous and coming from someone who seems to have a mad sense of entitlement.

          1. I just realized I have no idea what you are talking about. Cowardice, slander and subterfuge sounds exciting indeed, unfortunately I fail to find any such tasty morsels in Blake’s article.

            Ok, so he has made public a discussion that was presumed to be private. I can see how that looks borderline unethical and I’m sure Chuck would be dismayed to see it. But faced with a cease-and-desist he has also run out of other options, and taking his quandary public at least allows Blake to talk about his plight.

            If you’re offended by the above text I’d love to introduce you to some net art friends of mine. Their entire practice consists of baiting their audience, the media and random institutions of authority into a frenzy of moral outrage, generally leading to very serious-sounding legal action that ends up going nowhere. They then exhibit a complete documentation of the provocation, often building sculptures out of the mountains of legal documents they’ve received in the course of the project.

            Now that’s slander and duplicity for you. (I wouldn’t recommend calling them cowards, though, they might be amused.)

          2. Cowardice: when confronted he backed down immediately, did not voice his objections (except to claim to be a fan), and then began to scheme (fortunately coming up with a lamo 100 year plan!)

            Slander: he presents initially as a fan but then goes on to debate Close by proxy through this article, making claims that Close has had no chance to answer and which attempt to sully his name and his process.

            Lying: He told Close he was a fan, told him he was backing off, pretened to be keeping it friendly.

          3. I’m going to quote Todd Levin here, just because he puts it WAY better than I do:
            [The author] titles something “Free Chuck Close Filter,” then takes ‘offense’ when [his] art is labeled derivative, says he ‘never intended to rip off
            Chuck Close(!)’, claims Close is basically lying about his
            early/original sources, and to topic all off, says Close needs to
            develop “…a sense of shame and regret…and offers up an apology…”
            in addition to calling him “petty” and irrationally fearful.

    4. It looks as if you’re making an argument more for new media than talking about copyrights.

      Does changing the media from paint to pixels give enough room to be considered an original work? Probably not, but it’s an interesting question to ask how many degrees of separation it takes to be safe. If I take a picture of a contemporary painter’s work and start selling prints of it I would be in trouble.

      There’s no media that has greater ownership of “art” than any others. Whenever a material is declared too-new or dead you immediately find counter-evidence. In such a time where things are easily duplicated (“look ma, no hands” as you mentioned), it can’t be surprising that certain artists want to maintain the sacred originality of their work…and I’m sure that can apply to digital work as much as paint.

      1. You’re right, my comment was 90% soapboxing about media art. I apologize, it’s a spinal reflex when faced with clueless and xenophobic commentary about digital work like that seen in this thread. Nowhere do I argue that Blake should get special treatment because the work is digital, but I did try to explain the finer points of what’s involved in making such a piece – details that can be arcane even to the techno-savvy.

        But ultimately I don’t consider this a copyright matter at all, it seems more like a veiled excuse for expressing disapproval. (See my extended copyright comment above: http://hyperallergic-launch.newspackstaging.com/54104/my-chuck-close-problem/#comment-585751550). I’m particularly confused by the expressed enthusiasm for a draconian interpretation of copyright law that would protect every detail of an artist’s style – that’s a slippery slope that could lead to artists having to defend the originality of their works against just about anybody whose copyrighted works bear even the slightest resemblance to theirs.

        Keep in mind that copyright rarely benefits the average artist – who can’t afford to enforce it even in clear-cut cases. In practice copyright is primarily a tool of institutions and the 1% of artists who have made it to Close’s level. I know that sounds like a class-based argument, but talk to any non-bluechip artist whose work was ripped off by an ad agency and see how many of them have been successful in even getting a licensing compensation.

        I can’t help but wonder where the indignant commenters stand in regards to Pop Art, hip-hop and street art? In a scenario with zero-tolerance for appropriation (often far more shameless than Blake’s) these art forms might as well not exist. Campbell would’ve sued Warhol, the Amen breakbeat would not have become the origin of thousands of songs and street artists (most of whom are already on the run from the law) would likely be hunted by private investigators on the behalf of powerful copyright holders.

        People are free to hate Blake’s project all they like, but surely it would be better to own that antipathy upfront than dressing up as a legal issue?

  52. You got a personal invite to Chuck Close’s house and you’re whining?! Geeze. Not only is it dishonest and unethical to communicate your willingness to cooperate with the artist then publicly announce your “schemes” to do the exact opposite to his legacy after he’s dead but its bad form, tasteless. I actually got pretty interested and excited when you feigned understanding and rationality in the letter exchange between you two. I saw a real opportunity for you. What happened? A few beers and resentful discussions with an attorney friend? Do you know anything about Chuck Close’s experience? Too bad for you that you probably destroyed any opportunity for it first hand with this ridiculous “blame” article. Oil painting is a visual medium that has the contextual reverence of history. Your article left a bad taste in my mouth. Its seems youve been reading the dictionary (your affinity with the word derivative) so now spend some time building an awareness and relationship with those words youre throwing around. I suggest some research and study in the visual arts. In the end, your actions have shown us your true intentions; not to commune with years of historical visual dialogue about art and its making, but instead shameless attention gluttony and immediate gratification of your ego. YAWN…..

  53. Appropriation is one thing- to use his name in a website called “free chuck close art” where you are certainly jeopardizing his career by allowing people to rip off his iconic paintings in a cheap shortcut version, without his consent- is quite another.

  54. Responsibility and ethics rear their heads here.
    Because your art education never exposed you to Chuck Close doesn’t mean it is OK for you to make work that is so close to his footprint without dealing with the consequences. You should not be angry with Chuck Close. Actually, the people you should be angry with were your art instructors who didn’t bother to educate properly especially if they say saw that you were treading on thin ice such as copyright infringement.

    Too many art schools today allow their students to all but copy work and techniques of other artists and many never bother to have a discussion about this with these students. What alarms me most about this is the copyright infringement that may well happen due to this overlook of something I feel is so basic. Why are the art schools not teaching basic art history nowadays? Living in New York, I see derivative constantly now. Used to be it was a rarity to see derivative work. Galleries, too, are in collusion especially if they show questionable work with a wink and a nod. Art shouldn’t always be what one can get away with. Just because an artist has a MFA doesn’t mean they know more about art history. This is growing more and more apparent. Artist should understand that they should not copy another more prominent artist’s work. Besides, who wants their art identity tied up with another artists work. Its almost lazy. Too bad these young artists paid so much money to higher education only to be shafted by these same institutions who were supposed to teach them the correct way.

    Even if the artist is self-taught, this is by no means an excuse, especially in our saavy world with very easy access to learn about others work.

    Intellectually, if an artist finds out his work is derivative of an artist who came before, he should work harder and make sure his work becomes more uniquely his own. This takes time. Unfortunately, most younger artists are just not ready intellectually and don’t have the resolve nor the technique to understand. This still doesn’t make the situation right and vilifying artists is still the norm rather than a free pass with a wink and a nod so tread lightly or pay dearly.

    1. Hey Jon. It’s been a while since we had a chance to catch up. It’s rare to banter back and forth with someone you know. And unfortunately I have to disagree. The fact that it may be derivative might be exactly the point of the art? I wasn’t liking it personally after reading this article but going to his site made me think that there is a bigger issue that this piece speaks to that I’m not even sure Scott understands. Which is… what is derivative? And that qualifies it as art for me. And therefore transformative. Is it good? Doesn’t matter because it deserves protection under the law. Cheers, Chris.

  55. There is a great quote by Picasso that says it all “Good artists borrow, great artists steal”. And what that means is you take what has struck you and put a flame in your brain and you make it all yours, completely yours. How? By putting your own transformation to it. There are no original ideas, it’s all been done. But what you do to transform and make your own, is what makes great art worthy of consideration.

  56. Just because it says “APPROPRIATE” on the label, doesn’t mean you HAVE to buy it.
    In this case, I’m just not buying it.
    When it was Richard Prince’s Marlborough Man, I bought it.
    When it was Warhol’s poppies, I bought it.
    When it was Shep’s HOPE poster, even: I bought it.
    Even when graphic artists snatch huge portions of photos, I feel just dandy about it.

    But when there’s a childish blindness to simple human decency, as I and Todd Levin have pointed out below, then I cant help but NOT buy it.

    Btw : the caps, for those of you with accute sensitivity, are replacing the lack of italics.

  57. Scott, I wish you had talked a bit more about your art practice beyond this project. Your articles makes it seem this has been your only preoccupation since college. Only after going to your website did I see that you’ve done much more than this Chuck Close series. It’s important, and unfortunately a necessity, as appropriation artists (for which I am one christopherclary.com) to show a history of using other source material and technologies to create something new (a strategy used in the Cariou vs. Prince case). Maybe you can find a law firm that can take this on pro bono because it would be interesting to challenge the idea that art has to be original. Why can’t it be “derivative” and transformative at the same time. Very interesting.

  58. Someone should make similar portraits composed of tiny extreme close ups of anal-sphincters and call it “freescottblakeart.”

    But seriously, this entire article is insulting and ludicrous. It’s a new level of disrespect that you think Close should feel shamed for attempting to protect his copyrighted work and then being extremely gracious to you in follow up emails.

    And by very definition this work is derivative as you directly derived it from Close’s actual images. It doesn’t matter if you like the word.
    (from the OED: “derivative …originating from, based on, or influenced by”)

    You, sir, are a tool, and as a new media artist I am offended at you trying to paint us all with your brush. Most of us have far more respect for other artists.

  59. I totally agree with you but..as one great art dealer just said to me “it’s too close to Close”…I understand how you are re-appropriating his process…and his process is his art.

    You can always look back at the Sherry Levine case for any qualms about appropriation. The jury was on your side.

    The only problem here, for me, is that your subjects are extremely similar to Close’s. The animation works because it is so different but the faces – well, that’s almost indistinguishable. 100 years from now – no one will know the difference between Chuck’s “Leslie” and HotBlondeBabe47 who uploaded her profile pic to the Free Chuck Close Filter in 2008 …and finally – you are so using his name! That’s got to be more confusing to some people than ever!

    Also – his meticulously painted portraits are a step more meticulous than yours in one MAJOR way. Chuck suffers from face blindness.

  60. When I read this earlier, I was aghast that Close would feel so threatened by generative art, having declared “I absolutely hate technology, and I’m computer illiterate, and I never use any labor-saving devices although I’m not convinced that a computer is a labor-saving device.”

    He has clearly decided, I thought, they pose a sort of threat. This amusingly led to two possible conclusions: Chuck Close has either decided that software is creative, or if he’s sticking to his derision of technology, that his work is merely a matter of labor.

    But all of my smug amusement was borne of a mistake in interpretation. On re-reading the email exchange as recounted, it seems that Close is only defending the use of his name and image. It’s not the sanctity of his work that seems to be driving his objection, but the dilution of his brand.

    If the “website name is part of the art” then it would seem that playing with his brand was intentional. And if you wanted to stand by a statement of that sort, you’d be declaring “fuck you, Chuck Close, your name is not art and this is fair use.”

    But that’s not what I read here. Instead, you’re in a defensive posture about the legitimacy of your art and the tradition of “remixing”, when it’s not even clear that Close has questioned these. Perhaps you’re talking past each other and it would have been constructive to continue the dialogue.

  61. Just call a spade a spade. The work is derivative and would not exist in its present form without Chuck Close first making his own stylized technique of mosaic paintings. If Chuck Close does not paint these pictures then the work by Scott would not exist. You can apply this formula to most every appropriated creative invention. Just go back to the idea of the tabla rasa. Your are a blank slate until you have an experience that you can build upon or in this case copy. It is pretty simple.

  62. Scott, I doubt Chuck Close knew he was going to become part of the “art world establishment” and believe he has worked diligently his entire life on his creative passion and his success is a by product of this effort. I hope this happens to you and I one day. It doesn’t make him any different than you or I when he defends his work from being copied and trivialized. I think you need to stop presenting this as little guy being picked on by big, rich guy. Exuberance gets us all in trouble at some point. I think you over stepped and would be best served acknowledging this and moving on rather than trying to rally a bunch of people to support your “cause”. The only thing that your filter seems to do is make anyone’s face available in Close’s “Signature Style”. Since when has that been a god given right? The images lack the depth and interest of the original work. It’s like saying you’ve seen Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” because you bought the mug from Starbucks. I think Chuck Close has every right to protect his work. You may feel it is a homage, but from here it seems misguided and insulting. I agree with some of the previous posts. Take your talent and do something original.

  63. Only because I used to care about art, and this is such a trainwreck, and I was lucky enough to get the linkage.. I can’t resist…

    This whole discussion. The original article. The (supposed?) email from an important modern artist. But most of all, the vitriol! My heart is fluttering almost as much as my eyes are rolling. This is what’s going on in the “art world”? Rhetorical question. Do you understand what’s going on in the rest of the creative world? Rhetorical question.

    Oh man. It doesn’t matter who wins this argument (though Blake, hats off for causing it, and neat filter! :).

    Kids aren’t running around with iPods full of huge troves of paintings and they don’t know who Chuck Close is; in the music part of the creative world, the livelihood and legacy arguments were safely sequestered to a courtroom while everyone got on with downloading tons of free music and learning what all of the Beatles albums actually sounded like instead of just hearing about them as Important Works that once happened.
    Or consider film (which notably is making it onto the iPods, even though the space for storing 1 film could equally well get you all of the painting in the Met). A single notable “motion” picture employs, is seen by and drives more economic production and conversations than.. oh, the last decade of all gallery paintings together? Am I underestimating?
    And the visual graphic art that actually matters — graffiti — (m-dash? haha, j/k) makes almost no reference to anything in our galleries.

    Now think, How does a graffiti artist feel when their work gets chopped up, remixed and broadcast to the interwebz? If you actually contemplated that, go outside and play right now 🙂 A: Nobody knows or cares 99% of the time because the whole scene is too fast, exciting and PRODUCTIVE to waste cycles asking academic questions or waiting to hear their answers. The rare exception, such as Leave through the Gift Shop, is self-deprecating, ironic, and itself a work of art, by let’s say the equivalent of a Chuck Close in that world.

    Same applies for music. Have you heard of Girl Talk? Rhetorical question. I mean, just think about the music scene. It’s exploding. There’s like what, hundreds of music fests around the country every year and new subgenres developing in your favorite subgenre before you even catch up to what was going on last year. There’s Pandora! Er wait.. there’s a whole sub-dot-com industry copying Pandora now. I went to SXSW this year and it could very well have been the epicenter of the Mayan prophesied 2012 apocalypse. I think I saw a few paintings on the wall somewhere, between the 750 bands that came from all over the world to > 20-30k revelers (underestimating again?).

    copyrights, trademark, blah blah: http://blog.ted.com/2010/05/25/lessons_from_fa/

    Of course there’s a role for the Academy, and higher learning, and traditions and context and.. but look, the art scene is a dead scene. You get to have the Academy back once you return from the land of the living dead.

    (I was curious and decided to see if there were any facts supporting this and found Art New’s Top 30 Exhibitions of the year, 2010: http://www.theartnewspaper.com/attfig/attfig10.pdf is anyone on this list even living? A: Tim Burton. That kinda says it all, eh ;?)

    Now everyone send Chuck Close some all-caps for involving lawyers, get off their keyboards and go do something creative … or at least derivative!

  64. Everyone in the comments seemed to miss the point in this. He made it because of a deep admiration of chuck close’s work. He said he wanted to make the style more accessible to everyone. Seeing as chuck close is beyond doing commissioned works.
    Do the products coming out of the chuck close filter have any impact on chuck close, do they trivialize his work, or his legacy? I hardly think so, everyone who goes to the site would have some idea of who chuck close is and his art, and they would know they are getting a manufactured product, not an original.
    The only impact the free chuck close art website might have would be to introduce some new people to chuck close and his work, and perhaps some new people to visual arts in general.
    As an artist chuck close should know that art is built on everything that came before it. As Scott pointed out it would be laughable to think Chuck didn’t know about the other people working in the same style at the same time, yet he made an outlandish claim that he was the first. It sounds to me like Chuck is being petty. He shut down a fan and a fellow artist because he disagreed in the context, form and source of the art work in question. He selfishly thought about his own “legacy”, which to be honest only really stood to be marginally enhanced by the project if anything, and failed to remember his own past, and the hard work that goes into developing something new, and building a new idea. For those who missed it the potential to enhance the legacy of close wasn’t in the websites, but using the filter and using it to create animations.
    Chuck Close represents himself no longer as an artist, but as a commercial brand, he uses the concept of an artist as part of the brand. It’s funny that he takes great offence to the free art from the website, says it will negatively impact his legacy, yet at the same time he’s okay with chuck close art t-shirts, posters and coffee mugs. Guess it’s one thing if his art is used to make products, but it’s not okay for his art to be used to make other art. Sounds like a Brand to me.

  65. If you are truly and original artist I’m sure you’ll evolve to create something other than Chuck Close facsimiles. -But you determining what’s good or not good for Mr. Close’s financial standings shows your ignorance. While you may be “cool” with an artist creating Scott Blake
    look-alikes, Chuck Close isn’t cool with you projecting his name or intellectual property without consent. Chuck Close and the name “Chuck Close” is an icon in American art, in fact he played a huge role in the founding of and art movement during the 70’s which I’m sure you’re already aware. To you it’s a class project, to Chuck Close it’s his name…his identity and livelihood. Remember, Chuck Close was minding his own business before YOU made him YOUR problem.

  66. Regarding the naming of the site, if the name or context ignored the Chuck Close connection he would’ve been accused of ripping Chuck off. By shouting out that these are ‘chucks’, he’s being honest and more importantly, making a statement.

    If the value in chucks work is in the fact that it takes him forever to make one of these paintings, surely its very relevant that it can now be automated by a computer. Instead of trying to ignore this fact he should accept it and adapt.

    If the value in chucks work is at a conceptual level, he has nothing to worry about. You can’t build the shell of a car out of polystyrene and expect it to run.

    Desperately fighting to cling on to royalties losing value in a changing world is a little bit sad.

    1. You have some interesting points. ‘Royalties for wealthy established artists’ issue aside, I also think that the speed at which this changing world is devaluing creative product is A LOT sad. Because the demand for creativity and its fruits are as strong as ever. Obviously culture will adapt, and some things and attitudes will change, but I certainly hope that creators are willing to fight desperately for their overall value in this changing world. All those changes coming these days may not fall in favor of the working artist/musician/etc. as much as they favor the shopaholic/audience/consumer point-of-view (whether $ is exchanged or not), so its worth thinking about the world we are making. I think so, at least. We don’t all have trust funds, but we all have bills to pay. Most artists and musicians I know are struggling. I’m sure both Close and Blake would concur — making stuff is hard and takes a lot of time and energy.

      That isn’t a swipe against appropriation in all its forms, btw. Sampling, appropriation, painting on someone else’s wall, whatever else — all that stuff is just in the toolbox of making art. It can be ethical, it can be unscrupulous, and sometimes it slinks around in a gray area that is hard to pin down. Legality is a totally separate kind of judgement, as far as I’m concerned. Some of the art will be wack, and some will be mediocre, and some will be good, and some will be awesome. Same as it ever was.

  67. Wow, so many interesting comments. If nothing else, I think this article has spurned a really interesting debate. I am a fan of appropriation art. Always have been. I have been known to appropriate tons of imagery in my own work. I am influenced by pop artists, and I am a believer in expressing what you experience. If what you experience happens to at times involve the work of others, put in in there. The same way a writer might talk about what brand of Vodka or soda he/or she was drinking, I think artists should be able to visually “talk” about what they are experiencing.

    2 points that I haven’t heard articulated here (although I admit I didn’t read through the entire thread):

    1: I do think the real issue here is the use of Chuck Close’s name in the project. Obviously, at this point he is is own brand, and in that sense should have some sort of ownership of how his name is used in any commercial affair (although this point is kind of moot considering the the project is a *free image generator).

    2: I’m glad that someone brought up Jeff Koons. Funny how he is sue-happy, yet a large portion of his art is directly about appropriation. i.e. the “banality” series?? C’mon, so you cast a porcelain mold of the pink panther. It’s STILL the pink panther and hence someone else’s idea/drawing/character. In fact, this project is really similar to that project in a way. It is just reproducting someone else’s work in another medium, and that medium change is part of what the message is about. This is a reverse discrimination about the same subject matter, in fact. That is, the formal, museum-ready, artisnal porcelain reproduction of a “banal” cartoon image is deemed fine, but the reverse (Chuck Close’s idiosyncratic original paintings represented in a “banal” medium) is apparently inappropriate. The question is: by whose standards?

    3: I do think Chuck Close is being a little overdramatic. Legally, I think he definitely has grounds to stand on, but the point is Chuck Close is a legendary living icon and a household name, and honestly I think his concern that this will somehow devalue his contribution to the world is beyond ridiculous. Do we devalue Van Gogh or Da Vinci because representations of their work now exist on umbrellas, tote bags, and posters? I think not. They are still hailed as singularly original and worship-worthy masters who are in every artist history book across the planet. Close has nothing to worry about. His work has been canonized to the anals of history.

  68. Scott Blake has done a nice job with his Chuck Close homage project: aesthetically, computationally and conceptually. It’s a pity that Close isn’t big enough to appreciate it. It’s downright pitiful that Close actually feels threatened by Blake’s project.

    I also think that Blake has done a nice job drawing connections between Close’s work and that of the (contemporaneous) early computer artists, such as Ed Manning (http://www.atariarchives.org/artist/sec17.php). Clearly pixellization was “in the air”. It’s too bad, again, that Close is too small to acknowledge the stew of related ideas from which his own work emerged in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

    For more than a decade, I’ve taught a “Make Your Own Custom Pixel” assignment in my Processing courses which is — take your pick — an homage to Close, or a trivialization of his work. For example, here’s 2005: http://artscool.cfa.cmu.edu/~levin/courses/dmc/iig_05s/ejercicio_persona.php?e_id=53. Close needs to get over himself and see his work in a context of influence and continually evolving ideas. Blake certainly does.

  69. Both parties are jerks.

    Close’s work always been about the being antithesis to creativity. He is a dick, who has been making repetitive cold work since forever, and is much loved for it, who values brute force shows of labor instead of creativity, and enforcing this on every medium he can find that is possibly receptive. They are the equivalent to Damien Hirst’s spot paintings, save for the fact that Close for whatever dubious reasons of authorship or “artistry” still paints them himself. It valorizes itself through production, and brand, about pure work ethic over invention or mastery. He does have to protect his brand because it’s all he has got, although the for his children part is patronizing.
    Scott Blake is a fan making his own work, a creative act of programing making what may or may not be interesting digital work, but for which we can’t tell because we are forced to view it through the lens of Chuck Close. It’s utilizes a marker of symbolic capital to valorize itself through Close, or because he “loves” Chuck Close, which makes him a fan. Saying something is appropriation art does not inherently make the work interesting, nor political, just as painting of flowers is not necessarily beautiful. Blake is simply doing what he (Blake) does, but in a digital medium, which as Blake stated pissed him off because it broke the unspoken rule that his work must be rarified and privatized. If Blake was truly trying to democratize the Chuck Close brand than he should have seen the “lawsuit” coming. Instead he used Chuck Close to be recognized and to be rewarded for doing something Chuck Close wouldn’t.
    Dude, just do something of your own that is interesting in and of itself, you’re obviously capable, stop thinking it needs to be capital A art.
    Lolololololololol.

  70. I am a visual artist who likes computers but I have spent a great deal of time learning how to make art without using that tool. Chuck Close is the only person that should be allowed to use his own name and visual works. It is different to work with the artist in your wonderful creations. It stinks that you spent so much time on your project without him, but that is not the way it is done. You have the greatest vehicle for your own art here. Or…find an artist who wants to work with you and use this as an in to get in some galleries with more original mosaic pieces to make the images. Then release it to the masses. The point is, using a living artist to make your work a successes is only ok if they know you are part of the creative process and want to work with you. I cant wait to see what you come up with.

  71. I have read so many articles by programmers in Photoshop and Macworld magazine that sound just like this, a step by step description of a process on how to imitate an artists style. And sorry but that is where this article belongs! I’m not anti digital arts at all, it’s been part of my practice for over 3 decades, but I can understand why Close might be with nerds like this on his back, even with a freaking microscope on hand- no depth of understanding!
    ‘Appropriation’ is often brought up by ‘designers’ who ‘use’ artists work inappropriately as a way of excusing what they do. Yes there is more to Close’s work than pixelisation, and anyone who has looked at his work in any detail would know. Scott Blakes filter is as stupid as an Andy Warhol filter- double stupid, an animated Warhol filter.
    I don’t see Scotts point on Close’s nude, or any similarity, – and yes the article should have stopped after his written apology when Close invited him to his studio (which was nice!). The rest is Evil and belongs in the trash!

    1. Whether people like/ don’t like Chuck Close’s work or think they know him is irrelevant!
      Educated artists know what appropriation is about and it does not mean stepping all over another artist and their life’s work in this way without any agreement in place. Is there an “appropriation for dummies” book someone can write for Scott and the like? “A logical extension of the creative process” 1/ it is not your creative process and saying you ‘never intended to rip off Chuck Close”, is just bullshit when you have sat down in the most superficial sense (trying) to examine his work to the grid, with intention of capitalising on his hard work and name – the only dedication you have applied. If it were about you it would be enough to call it the Scott Blake filter wouldn’t it. You are a thief AND a liar, saying one thing to him privately and publically declaring another! Shame on you!

      1. I agree with you! Scott Blake’s filter is derivative and would not exist in its present form without Chuck Close. Scott Blake’s methodology, as he explains it himself (!) is based on copying Chuck Close’s work with aim to imitate his style. Copyright belongs to the originating source which is Chuck Close. Chuck Close owns his name obviously, you cannot use a persons name in this way and get away with it . But most of all, copying another artists work is unethical art practice, you just don’t go there. I’m not buying Scott Blake- he isn’t particularly controversial but publication of this here is, it’s stupidity at its highest form, it’s not doing the art and technology community any favours that’s for sure!
        In NO other industry, could you create (a substandard) mechanised version of someone else’s produce, use their name, with aim to benefit commercially, and get away with it! I’d like to see this go to court just to see this calculating lying jerk called Scott Blake boasting all over his Facebook put in his rightful place!

        1. This post is good- albeit too kind for the jerk you are. listen up dude!
          Andy Diaz Hope • 3 days ago

          Scott, I doubt Chuck Close knew he was going to become part of the “art world establishment” and believe he has worked diligently his entire life on his creative passion and his success is a by product of this effort. I hope this happens to you and I one day. It doesn’t make him any different than you or I when he defends his work from being copied and trivialized. I think you need to stop presenting this as little guy being picked on by big, rich guy. Exuberance gets us all in trouble at some point. I think you over stepped and would be best served acknowledging this and moving on rather than trying to rally a bunch of people to support your “cause”. The only thing that your filter seems to do is make anyone’s face available in Close’s “Signature Style”. Since when has that been a god given right? The images lack the depth and interest of the original work. It’s like saying you’ve seen Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” because you bought the mug from Starbucks. I think Chuck Close has every right to protect his work. You may feel it is a homage, but from here it seems misguided and insulting. I agree with some of the previous posts. Take your talent and do something original.2 •Reply•

      2. Lots of salient points there, Diane. I like it. I wouldn’t personally go all the way with ‘evil’ or ‘thief’ with a capital T, and maybe I’d add a couple other nuances here and there …. but I agree with what you’re saying in general. Especially concerning this filter in particular — which I’ll admit, just doesn’t seem like that cool of a toy or idea to me. There must be tons upon tons of these things out there.

        EDIT: original comment went on and on forever … it’s all been said elsewhere in various comments, though. What a dust up!

  72. Your defense of how you and all artists are influenced and inspired by others is brilliant. Bravo!

  73. what a fascinating piece of performing art?
    I’m jealous – I always wanted to use some famous art-dudes name –
    and then have him threatening to sue me –
    and then say that he wasn’t nice –
    and then get all these funny comments –
    MAN – am I jealous!

  74. Yes, it’s been said that all art is in some way derivative. And I don’t diminish Mr. Blake’s idea to reappropriate some of those ideas in his digital art project. But it’s very clear that using Chuck Close’s name was entirely the point of this project.

    By referencing a specific artist’s work and practice, regardless of whether or not that practice was itself a derivation of other works from the past, Mr. Blake clearly stood to gain. Sure, the filter was free, but recognition and fame are priceless. When Chuck Close is interviewed and suggests that he doesn’t know of other artistic practices that are similar to his own, he may be lying. But at least he is not using another artists’ name to further his own work and gain praise or acknowledgement.

    Chuck Close doesn’t want you using his name on work that he did not produce for good reason. Stand up and call this work your own–it’s already derivative, and anyone who knows anything about art in the 20th century will recognize the “Chuck Close-ness” of it without ever it ever being labeled with his name,

  75. I’d have to side with the author on this one. Sure, maybe freechuckcloseart.com was a poor choice for a domain name, but I think he did add something conceptually to the idea of chuck close’s style. He essentially brought it into a new medium, and mechanized it. Chuck Close has developed a product…he pixellates portraits of people. I think it’s a fair critique to say that a computer can do what he does, and then prove it. Close could probably kick back and have a bunch of assistants do his art for him, and make money. Obviously the author made no money off of this project, and was not a financial threat to Close in any sense. There are fine artists out there who make outright copies of famous artworks, and even cut pictures of paintings out of magazines and frame them. These pieces are then sold for actual money, whereas this is a free website. People aren’t going to take snapshots and render them in the website, and then proceed to sell them as chuck close art. If there was some sort of financial threat, say another big shot fine artist ripping off his style and selling their pieces for thousands of dollars, then I’d empathize. But this is a non-commercial venture, done with the best of intentions, sorry, I’m going to have to side with the author on this one.

  76. Here is my Close/Blake/Close/Blake/Close/Blake filter. It takes a picture of a Close portrait I found on a match book cover and “automatically” retrieves images for each tile, uses those images as input to Scott Blakes’s
    freechuckcloseart.com filter (which I had to reverse-engineer), producing an image which I used to produce 13 million tiles I hand-assembled into a portrait of the back of Chuck Close’s head, which was then reduced in size (used a copy machine) and pasted into each page of a “Blake” – Elvis flipbook,
    http://www.barcodeart.com/store/collectible/barcode_flipbooks/Elvis.html, which was then shredded, and sprinkled onto a plate and shaken until I thought the image looked like Chuck Close, after which I then cut a stencil using an authentic bar code from a cereal box (got the idea to use a bar code from Blake) and placed it on top of the shredded Chuck Close, sprayed the whole thing with black paint (from an “Art” store, not a hardware store), photographed the whole thing, scanned it into Photoshop, reduced it all to a single pixel, and used it to create the dot at the end of this sentence. I’m working on a video of the process next.

  77. Right now there is a shift underway where art that once required a hand to make, might only require a computer, and take a fraction of the time to make. If the artists dont evolve with the times, their traditional livelihood will be place in jeopardy. Chuck close hasn’t changed his practice in decades, and I’d guess he is so threatened because this piece shows the technology catching up. Not that Close will ever be replace by programmatic art in his life-time, he has a market for his works, he is considered an amazingly influential painter, and will always be in art history.

    BUT, artists are never unique or acting in a vacum, Chuck Close shouldn’t pretend he ‘invented’ this style and it is insulting that he tries to ‘own’ it. This is the claim of someone living in the past, from a pre-internet era. Someone with too big of an ego to recognize that the art is more important that him. Close sounds like the music industry or encyclopedia publishers, un-willing to accept that times have changed, maybe too old to adapt, and fighting increasingly petty fights while still being millionaires. You can’t stop technology.

    I do think it would great to print one of the chuck close filters out and display it next to a chuck close painting. I am sure it wouldn’t compare, again, yet. So although I think Chuck Close sounds like a paranoid old man, some younger artists must consider where technology is going, and if their work is threatened by it. The internet is changing ideas of ownership and production, and the art market will never be the same, Chuck Close is fine, but younger artists must adapt.

    1. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but statements like “The internet is changing ideas of ownership and production” have to be examined closely before they are swallowed whole. It might apply better in some cases than others. Take it case by case. After all … people are changing their minds, the tech and the tools don’t actually do that for them. We are still sentient and responsible for the ethics behind our actions, like it or not. I think the idea that all cultural changes follow some sort of automatic updraft that equals progress is a bit blind. What are the new ideas of ownership and production, and how broadly do they apply, and what/who is the driving force behind it?

      Some of the consumptive habits of kids who have only ever known a post-internet world might actually demand that creators just deal with zero/unsustainable compensation from the demands of consumption. Period. They want more, but they want it free. Rent? Medical bills? Kids to feed? Too bad, artists and writers and musicians — the art and culture is just so much bigger than you. If you feel like complaining about the deal, somebody less bitchy about such compensatory details will do it for free. Forget celebrity millionaires and record companies for a second. It could turn out that the new even-more-easily-faceless audience (and not just big faceless corporate interests — wait… they are considered ‘people’ now too, right?) is just as comfortable steamrolling and screwing independent artists and little guys. Personally, that’s what I think the new deal is. As an artist, I have actual concerns that maybe someone who wants me to toil away for “exposure” (which is also a word for something that kills you) and goodwill so that they can live in a world of boundless free entertainment choices might not share. When do we get the “free food and shelter and medicine” world? Why do I have a sinking feeling the pace of change regarding a “free for all” ethos might struggle to keep pace with the demand for entertainment? It is worth paying attention to. Seriously and sincerely, best of luck to younger artists.

      I hope I’m just being cranky and paranoid there. I’ll admit that’s super possible. I hope I’m wrong. On good days, I’m more optimistic. I’m the same age as Scott Blake, and my life has basically been a 50/50 straddle of the pre- and post-internet world. I think the internet is an amazing tool with tons of potential …. both good and bad, honestly.

      1. I’m not so sure, did we decide to let the printing press radically shift how knowledge was spread throughout the world? No, it just was there, and could do it better than ever before, so it naturally happened. There were scribes who protested the printing press, because it made their work obsolete, and that is what Chuck Close is afraid of, although it hasn’t happened yet.
        Also, I would be willing to bet there are more musicians and artists making a living then ever before, even with “the consumptive habits of kids who have only ever known a post-internet world” but the ways those artists are making a living is changing. attendance of live events has sky rocketed. As an artist/art writer/curator I am worried about our demands to free up art and knowledge, but I demand it too, it is democratic and fair. I trust that there will be new ways to make money. hell, I am getting paid to blog, a job that didn’t exist two decades ago.

        1. Well, the printing press didn’t operate itself. I’m also not really convinced that the internet can somehow replace the role of human creative endeavors. Creative people still need to make the content for it, as far as I can tell. I guess I think it’s different than the scribes of old. For the record, I think Close doesn’t really need to be worried in this specific case, whether or not he is within his legal rights. It’s hard to say, copyright rulings are hard to predict with certainty. Not that I think this would even go that far.

          I wouldn’t bet my OWN money that there are more artists and musicians making a living than ever before (as in making enough from their art/music itself), but maybe there is. I don’t have any numbers to back it up. I also think that there might even be a few different ways to measure the skyrocketing attendance of live events. Does this attendance translate directly into artists/performers/whatever getting paid? Is it enough to offset overhead costs or make up for losses of old revenue streams? I don’t know those answers, I’m just throwing those two out there. However, I totally agree that the ways artists are making a living is changing. I just wonder how many will get burned or shut out (not even on the merit of their art, either … just on savviness in promoting themselves) in the process, and if it’s so necessary. As a curator and arts writer, you must be a little curious yourself about all of the art we’ve never seen and never will for untold numbers of reasons.

          Freedom and democratic access to knowledge is awesome. Art and knowledge have been free for my entire life! Aside from an internet connection at home I have a library card, and most libraries have connections too. I think public libraries are one of humanity’s greatest ideas, hands down. For what I don’t find online, I find on the shelves and whatnot. And I only need the card if I want to bring the materials home with me. Even most gallery exhibits where I live (aside from museums) have no cover charge. The imediately pre-internet world wasn’t exactly analogous to the pre-printing press world. Democratic access to info (and elbow grease) is how I bypassed going to art school! For the record, I buy books too sometimes.

          Between you and me … I even make whatever art I want. No one but myself stops me, and I doubt I’d let them … so I take the ethical responsibility to stop myself if I should seriously. It’s when it comes to choices about exhibiting or profiting (whether or not that means $$$) where I make an extra set of judgement calls. Not so different from curating in a way, come to think of it. Sort of? Actually, I don’t really know. I’m not a professional.
          And I also have no doubt there will be new ways to make money …. I’m just not sure how much it will have to do with making art. Maybe some will and some won’t. I have no idea.

          I really wouldn’t call blogging a job that didn’t exist two decades ago. Just the word ‘blogging’ didn’t. I’d definitely say you sound like a good writer though.

          1. Creative People do still feed the content to online or programmatic artwork, but the speed and potential audience that these works can achieve are greater than ever before. Whether they are as good is an impossible conversation that I don’t know how to begin.

            I think that you make a really good point that artists now must act as promoters too. I am sure there are tons of great artists that never got known because they were shy, or the market was unfair to them, I honestly really hate to think about it. Sad.

            I think that major arts institutions like the New Museum have a great role in deciding futures of artists, and if they have hidden agendas that can be more destructive than any appropriation artist or new technology to other artists’ careers (I am thinking about this http://www.artfagcity.com/2009/11/03/how-the-new-museum-committed-suicide-with-banality/) I am glad you brought up libraries, I love them too. YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS: it blew my mind, especially around the conversation we’re having. Basically it is how the NYPL and Bibliothèque Nationale de France are re-imagining their place in an internet world as a more public space, as a community space, and not simply a storage for books. I was thinking about this lecture while writing earlier, I think you would enjoy it.

          2. the sneaky 100 year plan is the glaring ugly note here….also the new wave of folks intentionally causing uproars in comments to get a spreading buzz puts the entire article in question as far as intent

          3. Sweet – loved that link to artfagcity. Thumbs up to William Powhida! And concerning your point about major art institutions and hidden agendas and how all that can be even more destructive than any appropriation artist or new tech: nothing but an enthusiastic high five from me about that, for real. Oh, I could just rail about that sort of thing for days…
            I looked up NYPL/Bibliotheque Nationale and came across some ‘Utopia’ programming, but didn’t find any links to any video lectures … it looked like some choice cuts though (I’m skeptical about utopian ideas – surprise! – but love reading up on them for the vitamins). Was there supposed to be another link up there?
            Cheers Ben, pleasure to read your comments.

  78. You have simply produced some computer art that deals with Chuck Close’s “style”. The capturing of artistic style is not a duplication of another artist but is, in my humble opinion, a pure form of “computer art”. This has existed since the 80’s in the work of people dealing with a set technologies derived from “shape grammars”. Take a look at my simple effort trying to capture the process of Diebenkorn in “Computers Viewing Artist’s at Work”: http://ovrt.nist.gov/people/sressler/compt_view.pdf. More intrestingly this comes from the architecture domain where the paper “The language of the prairie: Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie houses” http://dcom.arch.gatech.edu/ellen/secured/flw-sg.pdf presents work to create synthenic houses in that same style. I think Chuck Close is totally off-base and misunderstands your work which if anything is a complement to his. Good luck!

  79. Your first sentence misses the point. It should read, “When an artist you claim to admire asks you to stop producing work which you thought of as an homage, and takes the time to explain why he thinks otherwise, as well as the legalities on the matter, do you stop?”

    Close never ordered you to stop making art. He asked you to stop making this particular body of work which infringes his copyright. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous. His opinions on computer art don’t even come into it. You are allowing your hurt feelings to distort the situation completely.

    By the way, “derivative” in this context is not a put-down and it’s not an “opinion.” It’s a specific reference to this section of US copyright law, which begins:
    “A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more pre-existing works.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_work

  80. So, part of what we are supposed to buy here is that Close is rich (from his artwork) and so its okay to rip off his work and try to make a profit on it. Bullshit.

  81. i agree with chuck, developing a program to make anyone be able to emulate whats he’s worked a life time to develop by hand.. is well not very interesting, original or flattering. Its a watering down of the Art you seem excited about and intent on preserving. You can site who ever you want for copying or bitting in the past or present..But its about what your doing now, and sitting all those examples just makes it seem like your defending your self, which is probably because on some level you understand what he’s saying. I’m sure your smart and get that so create your own art or technology thats not stepping on anyones toes (especially when dude now matter how rich he is, is asking you not to do this) you respect him and his art but kind want to say fuck you after your… well both dead. I don’t know man..

  82. This comes down to Mr. Blake’s statement that, “I simply wanted to make his art accessible to the masses.”

    “I wanted”

    “his art”

    Close had no obligation to allow his art to be made available to the masses in a way that advanced the career and livelihood of someone whom he had not authorized to do so. Close’s name and reputation were leveraged without his permission, and he has rights of publicity to his own name and work. He was right that his work was being trivialized.

    “I think he singled me out because I choose to work in a medium that he finds inferior.” No, Mr. Blake, he singled you out because you were using his name and reputation to promote your product (which trivialized his work) and to advance your own career.

    1. it’s copyright infringement, (moral rights legislation in most countries part of copyright law as it applies to visual artists) If copyright infringement, wasn’t obvious enough from Scott’s produce it is obvious in this descriptive article/ his own words.

  83. Hi Scott, I think the reason Close sees this as trivializing his work (and I’d agree) is because you made it available to the public. If you had used the filter to create your own art then he’d have no case against you…or else all artists that use appropriation and copy a style would be in the same situation. I think he’d only be able to claim you were copying his style, digitally. Tough for him at that point because a style can’t be copyrighted. Use the filter today by making your own work, write an article for a digital magazine and explore your research, development, and possible future options in the digital realm. If you can make art like Close in a digital format, then do so, but don’t make the filter available to others so they can flood the world with Chuck Close “look alikes”.

    1. the copyright holder is the originating source, it cannot be copied. mutilated or altered against their wishes.
      Artists Authorship Rights Act (New York) and the Visual Artists Right Act (VARA)elsewhere is called moral rights,- it is part of copyright law, It includes The right to prevent use of one’s name on any work that has been distorted, mutilated, or modified in a way that would be prejudicial to the author’s honor or reputation. The right to prevent distortion, mutilation, or modification that would prejudice the author’s honor or reputation

      Blake has no case whatsoever because this written piece spells it out, has used anothers artwork inappropriately AND used his name without seeking permissions. Copying styles, might be common place amongst designers, is not ethical practice in any visual arts community. this kind of behaviour conjures up associations of unethical practice for every other artist working with technology. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artists_Authorship_Rights_Act_(New_York)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_Artists_Rights_Act

  84. I agree with Steven Ketchum, I don’t see Blake using Close as an inspiration or following some personal work in which he uses Close as a source of research, as much as he is trying to say it differently. Having a website called “free chuck close art” as an artist is pretty risky and honestly it speaks badly about Blake’s work. I see some personal work that Blake can develop, like his work with bar codes and mosaic etc but not what he is doing with Close work. I just see a computer program that makes bad copies of Close work, with no historic value. And one can see it with the Lucas portrait, the one Close did is alive whether the Blake one doesn’t say anything, that’s it, Blake’s work based on Close doesn’t say anything, the other stuff he is working does say something.

  85. Without reading all the comments below, I think the simplest solution would be to name your filter something else, like Nathon Near. The only real copyright infringement you made was to use Chuck Close’s name. That is his right and property. I would be willing to bet there are other filters out there doing the same thing, just not using Close’s name. If I created a technique called the Picasso brush stoke, would I not be feeding off Picasso’s fame instead of my own? I like the idea for the filter and you should continue to work on it. Just give it another name. Cheers.

  86. Claiming the strategy of appropriation is a weak argument. Basically, you have reduced Close’s work to a thin style. Applying the filter to thoughtfully selected subjects might have taken the
    idea a step further; but simply making the style available on the internet for any image, even with the intention of making it “accessible to the masses” just isn’t particularly interesting. The choice of Close’s photographs are part of the content of his work. If you made a Van Gogh filter, for example, it would at best be a weak homage, commercialization, or shallow gesture regarding the artist’s body of work, no different than producing a line of mugs with Starry Night on them. I agree with Close in that it is a trivialization of his work. This is not a good nor compelling use of the tactic of appropriation, in that the entire concept is easily arrived at, lacks depth, and does not result in meaningful recontextualization of the appropriated work. I think you’re using Close’s correspondence to seek publicity and attention for an idea that lacks the complexity to be interesting on its own merit. As an artist, I would not wish anyone to take it upon themselves to make my work more accessible — and this statement does not help your argument, by the way. It sounds like you are hoping to distribute something that is supposed to represent a Chuck Close work.
    Claiming the strategy of appropriation is a weak argument. Basically, you have reduced Close’s work to a thin style. Applying the filter to thoughtfully selected subjects might have taken the idea a step further; but simply making the style available on the internet for any image, even with the intention of making it “accessible to the masses” just isn’t particularly interesting. The choice of Close’s photographs are part of the content of his work. If you made a Van Gogh filter, for example, it would at best be a weak homage, commercialization, or shallow gesture regarding the artist’s body of work, no different than producing a line of mugs with Starry Night on them. I agree with Close in that it is a trivialization of his work. This is not a good nor compelling use of the tactic of appropriation, in that the entire concept is easily arrived at, lacks depth, and does not result in meaningful recontextualization of the appropriated work. I think you’re using Close’s correspondence to seek publicity and attention for an idea that lacks the complexity to be interesting on its own merit. As an artist, I would not wish anyone to take it upon themselves to make my work more accessible — and this statement does not help your argument, by the way. It sounds like you are hoping to distribute something that is supposed to represent a Chuck Close work.

  87. Claiming the strategy of appropriation is a weak argument. Basically, you have reduced Close’s work to a thin style. Applying the filter to thoughtfully selected subjects might have taken the idea a step further; but simply making the style available on the internet for any image, even with the intention of making it “accessible to the masses” just isn’t particularly interesting. The choice of Close’s photographs are part of the content of his work. If you made a Van Gogh filter, for example, it would at best be a weak homage, commercialization, or shallow gesture regarding the artist’s body of work, no different than producing a line of mugs with Starry Night on them. I agree with Close in that it is a trivialization of his work. This is not a good nor compelling use of the tactic of appropriation, in that the entire concept is easily arrived at, lacks depth, and does not result in meaningful recontextualization of the appropriated work. I think you’re using Close’s correspondence to seek publicity and attention for an idea that lacks the complexity to be interesting on its own merit. As an artist, I would not wish anyone to take it upon themselves to make my work more accessible — and this statement does not help your argument, by the way. It sounds like you are hoping to distribute something that is supposed to mistaken for a Chuck Close work.

  88. Being inspired by another artist does not mean ripping them off and just modernizing their work and calling it yours…This article really does nothing more than reflect poorly on the integrity and creativity of the “artist” who wrote this piece.

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