Germano Celant, Toby Kamps, Gwen Allen, Paul R. Franklin, Alison Gingeras, Jonathan Griffin, Milan, 2016.
An overview of the entire oeuvre of the American Pop and Surrealist painter,
William N. Copley (1919–96) was a multifaceted American artist and art-world catalyst. Creator of madcap narrative paintings, drawings and installations, Copley was a unique figure in postwar art history well known for his humorous and sarcastic imagery. Known by his nom de plume CPLY, he was a self-taught artist pushing the limits of art-world decorum, as well as a collector, gallerist and connector of some of the most important artists of the 20th century, in particular European Surrealists and Dadaists such as Max Ernst, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, and American Pop artists. William N. Copley assembles works from all phases of the artist’s creation, from the Parisian years to the last period spent mostly in solitude in his home in Sugarloaf Key, Florida, tracing the development of his painterly style and continual experiments with line, color, pattern and allegory. In Paris in the early 1950s, Copley developed a unique, ribald figurative style that bucked prevailing trends toward abstraction, taking inspiration from Surrealist painting, American, cartoon and silent-movie imagery. Throughout his career, he repeatedly returned to subjects like nudes, cars and nationalism; later works reveal his abiding interest in political and psychosexual themes, surrealist visual punning and vaudevillian Americana, making Copley a link between European Surrealist and American Pop circles. Featuring approximately 250 paintings and works on paper, the volume accompanies the first comprehensive presentation of the artist’s work in an American museum, also scheduled to travel to Italy.