The National Gallery of Art in Washington has announced that it has postponed two upcoming solo exhibitions following allegations of sexual misconduct against the exhibiting artists, Chuck Close and Thomas Roma.
Given the recent attention on their personal lives, we discussed postponement of the installations with each artist. – Anabeth Guthrie
Close, a Photorealist painter and photographer, is best known for his portraits of known faces, such as Brad Pitt and Kate Moss. Roma, a photographer, taught at Columbia University until recently and focuses his work on scenes in Brooklyn, N.Y. Both men have been subjects of recent misconduct allegations by multiple women. The Washington Post reported on Thursday it was the first time the museum had canceled shows because of “public allegations against the featured artists, according to Anabeth Guthrie, the National Gallery’s chief of communications.”
Guthrie confirmed the accuracy of the report to NPR’s Elizabeth Blair, but later clarified that the exhibits were being postponed, not canceled. “We have great respect for their work,” Guthrie said in a statement about the Close and Roma installations. “Given the recent attention on their personal lives, we discussed postponement of the installations with each artist. All parties involved acknowledged that it is not the appropriate time to present these installations.”
Close’s exhibition had been scheduled to open in May, and Roma’s was slated for September. After the postponement, the National Gallery did not say when they expect to show their installations.
Close reportedly sexually harassed women who came to pose for him in his studio, according to reports published in The New York Times and Huffington Post. The allegations detail him unexpectedly asking multiple women to pose nude for him, in some cases asking intimate questions about personal grooming and making lewd comments about a woman’s vagina.
Close himself cast doubt on the accounts. “I never reduced anyone to tears, no one ever ran out of the place. If I embarrassed anyone or made them feel uncomfortable, I am truly sorry, I didn’t mean to. I acknowledge having a dirty mouth, but we’re all adults,” he told the Times.
Roma repeatedly made sexual advances on female students, according to five of his accusers who spoke on the record to the Times. The newspaper writes that a lawyer for Roma “disputes any suggestion that his behavior was ever coercive.” As Elizabeth reported, “Roma retired from his position at Columbia the day after the Times report was published.”
Chuck Close (b. 1940, Monroe, Washington) is renowned for his innovative conceptual portraiture. He began creating photorealist portraits from photographs in the late 1960s, using a grid to map each facial detail. In the late 1970s, he began shifting away from this approach, creating images with layers of autonomous shapes and colors that cohere into his subject’s face when viewed from a distance. Constantly revitalizing his practice, Close works across a variety of media, extending beyond painting to encompass printmaking, photography, collage, and tapestries based on Polaroids.
In 2000, Close was presented with the prestigious National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has served on the board of many arts organizations, and, in 2010, was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. In 2016, he created twelve large-scale mosaic portraits for New York’s 86th Street subway station at Second Avenue. Pace has represented Chuck Close since 1977.
Thomas Roma has been twice the recipient of Guggenheim Fellowships (1982 and 1991) and a New York State Council for the Arts Fellowship (1973), Roma’s work has appeared in one-person and group exhibitions internationally, including one-person shows with accompanying books at the Museum of Modern Art NY and the International Center of Photography. In 2003 he received a New York City Council Proclamation for contributions to the cultural and educational life of New York City and in 2011 the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
He has published fifteenn monographs including: Come Sunday (with an introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.), Found in Brooklyn (with an introduction by Dr. Robert Coles), Sunset Park, Higher Ground (with an introduction by Ian Frazier), Enduring Justice (with an introduction by Norman Mailer), Show & Tell, Sanctuary (with and introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.), Sicilian Passage, In Prison Air(with an introduction by John Szarkowski), On Three Pillars (with text by Phillip Lopate), House Calls with William Carlos Williams, MD(with an accompanying text by Dr. Robert Coles), Dear Knights and Dark Horses (with an introduction by Alec Wilkinson), The Waters of Our Time (with a collaborative text by his son, Giancarlo T. Roma), In the Vale of Cashmere (with an introduction by G. Winston James) and most recently (2016) Plato’s Dogs (with an introduction by Giancarlo T. Roma).
In 2010, the Wallach Gallery at Columbia University exhibited his work and published Pictures for Books, a catalogue including work from four of his series. The show traveled to Tulane University’s Newcomb Gallery in New Orleans in 2011.
He has taught photography since 1983 at Yale, Fordham, Cooper Union, and The School of Visual Arts and in 1996 became the Director of the Photography Program at Columbia University School of the Arts where he is a Professor of Art. His work is in numerous collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Canadian Center for Architecture, Montreal. He was also a founding contributing photographer to DoubleTake Magazine.