Art lovers who have only seen the paintings of Chuck Close in books about the history of modern art will have an opportunity to see the internationally known artist's large portraits in person.

The Schneider Museum of Art at Southern Oregon University is hosting an exhibit of his work through Sept. 5.

Close rose to fame in the 1960s and 1970s with his large photorealist paintings of faces. Even after suffering a spinal artery collapse in 1988 at age 48 that left him partially paralyzed, Close continued to work and gain fame for his portraits, which often feature people from the arts, including composer Philip Glass and conceptual photographer Cindy Sherman.

The exhibit "Chuck Close: Face Forward — from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation" features 78 pieces of art, each showing how Close continues to push the boundaries of portraiture with new experiments.

His most well-known portraits and self-portraits look like giant photographs from a distance. On closer inspection, each image is made of thousands of meticulously crafted abstract paintings.

In one self-portrait, Close's face — done in hues of orange, pale aqua, salmon and blue — glows on a dark background of muted indigo, sage and burnt orange.

Another portrait, again abstract at close range and realist from a distance, is almost monochromatic, with slate blue and other subdued colors.

Close has done repeated portraits of Glass, including one made entirely of inky fingerprints.

In an intriguing sculptural piece, viewers who place a plain metal cylinder down on a paper printed with seemingly random black marks will see Glass' face materialize as if by magic as a reflection on the cylinder.

"The range of his experimentation is just so huge," said Schneider Museum of Art Director Erika Leppmann. "Everyone knows his name and people know Chuck Close's style, but there's a lot more to learn."

In other pieces, Close has grouped black, white and gray squares of paper pulp to form portraits.

A series of 13 prints reveals the labor-intensive yet playful work that went into one self-portrait. Each print shows one of the colors used for the image, which when layered one on top of the other form the final multicolored portrait. Some of the individual color layers resemble a face, while others seem like random scribbles.

The wide range of the work will cause many viewers to wish they could attempt some of the techniques themselves. The Schneider Museum of Art is creating an outlet for those creative urges with free Family Days from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays June 27, July 11 and Aug. 1.

Participants of all ages can tour the exhibit, take part in discussion activities with museum docents and visit a hands-on activity room to make a project inspired by the artwork. Family Days are free and project materials are provided.

For people who want to learn more about Close's career and art, docents will lead 30-minute guided tours at noon every Tuesday while the exhibit is up.

Displays and videos at the exhibit will also help visitors delve more deeply into his art.

Museum officials said the exhibit was made possible through a generous loan from the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. Portland collector Jordan Schnitzer, who purchased his first work of art when he was 14 years old, is a lifelong art patron who lends pieces from his collection to institutions for exhibits.

"He's incredibly generous with his collection," said Leppmann. "It's wonderful for a museum in a small town like Ashland to be able to exhibit works by Chuck Close."

Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $5. For more information, call 541-552-6245 or visit sma.sou.edu/

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.