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“The camera,” painter Chuck Close has remarked, “is not aware of what it is looking at. It just gets it all down.” Although Close has worked from photographs for the last 30 years, painstakingly enlarging them into monumental portraits of his acquaintances and himself, he is anything but unaware of what he is looking at when he paints. His work has consistently and powerfully explored the complex interrelationships between photography, realist painting, and artistic license that many other representational painters have ignored. His earliest photograph-based work is clinical and unnerving: every pore, hair, and blemish on his sitters faces is not only rendered with stunning exactitude, but enlarged to outsized proportions, looming over the viewer. In later works, Close retains his uncanny observational skill and continues to paint on a large scale, but replaces the photorealist’s invisible brushwork with thumbprints, uniformly sized dots of paint, and multicolored lozenges (Lorna, 1995, is pictured), calling attention to the illusory nature of all representational art. Close is as renowned for his insightful critical commentary as he is for his challenging painting, he and speaks about his work at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, in the International Trade Center Amphitheater in the Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; a stunning career-spanning retrospective comprising more than 80 pieces, is on view from Oct. 15-Jan. 10, 1999, at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, 7th & Independence Ave. SW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Leonard Roberge)