Donald Sultan and Chuck Close: Six Degrees of Separation

A recent New York Times article, featuring the work of photographer Walter Weissman, shows a photo of Chuck Close in front of Donald Sultan's Domino painting. When we found a photo of Donald Sultan in front of the same painting, we took a closer look…and found the six degrees of separation between the two artists.


Connecting the Dots

I discovered about 150 dots is the minimum number of dots to make a specific recognizable person. You can make something that looks like a head, with fewer dots, but you won't be able to give much information about who it is.

-Chuck Close

Donald Sultan plays with the patterns of dots on dominoes, buttons and flowers. They play an integral part in his work and help to create the strong patterns in his prints.



The dots that Chuck Close uses are composed of multiple colors and shades, which he has perfected over the years, to represent the varying tones in each part of the face. Close says the system that he has created, is like a language that allows him to work up close, in the grid.

The grid is what we walk in, live in.
-Donald Sultan

Following the Grid

For Donald Sultan, who has done much of his work in Manhattan, "The grid is what we walk in, live in." He begins his work, especially the larger paintings, with a very careful chalked grid, placed over a tarred surface. His prints are often done in squares, and even his sculptures are close to square.



Chuck Close, who has overcome dyslexia, prosopagnosia (the inability to recognize faces) and a paralyzing stroke that has left him wheelchair bound, uses the grid to create portraits from photographs. "Overwhelmed by the whole," the grid helps him to break the photo into parts that he can deal with, both visually and artistically.


Chuck Close and Donald Sultan Prints

Artists don't compare themselves to each other based on money. Nobody really knows what money other artists have. They don't care that much. The measure is the work and how you think your work is perceived. How the museums are. How you are doing.
-Donald Sultan

Both Close and Sultan have focused on creating high quality prints. Close has worked with skilled printmakers to create silk tapestry portrait prints, like the one of his friend, Phillip Glass, available at Vertu.


Sultan also works with outstanding printmakers to create his superbly textured silkscreens.

The works of both Donald Sultan and Chuck Close are part of the permanent collections of MoMA, The Tate, The Centre Georges Pompidou and the Parrish Art Museum. Terrie Sultan, Donald Sultan's sister, is the Director of the Parrish Art Museum. She is the author of, Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration.


The Parrish Art Museum is in Water Mills, New York, about three miles from Bridgehampton, where Close lives and works, and about seven miles from Sag Harbor, where Donald Sultan lives and works. It's about a ten minute drive from Chuck Close's house to Donald Sultan's house. Both Chuck Close's prints and Donald Sultan's prints are available at Vertu Fine Art Gallery.

February 17, 2016
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