John Rivers Coplans (1920-2003) is a renowned English artist who we are very excited to have featured in our exhibition Artist: Body.
Coplans settled in London after World War II, deciding to become an artist. He had taken his first photographs in 1941 while in Ethiopia, serving in the King’s African Rifles. When he returned to London in 1946, he began to study painting, and eleven years later in 1957, Coplans was first featured in New Visions Centre Gallery in London for his tachiste-influenced abstract paintings.
Coplans moved to the United States in 1960, taking a position teaching at the University of California-Berkeley. In 1962, he moved to New York to co-found the art periodical Artforum, providing coverage on the ever-growing West Coast art scene. He held this position until 1977 when he returned to his love of photography while serving as head of the Akron Art Museum in Ohio. In 1980, he began taking nude self-portraits using a timer but became more serious about the idea a few years later, appointing an assistant to help with the photographs.
Said Coplans about the photographs, “I don’t know how it happens, but when I pose for one of these photographs, I become immersed in the past...I am somewhere else, another person, or a woman in another life. At times, I’m in my youth.”
Coplans began taking these photographs regularly in 1984, large-scale black and white, candid Polaroids usually presented from the neck down. He took these pictures from around the age of 60 and onward, giving a poignant study of aging, and often pull from his abstract art background, posing in different and unique ways.
Coplans’ art has received widespread acclaim and has been featured in various exhibitions and literature around the world. Four of his silver gelatin print photographs are featured at the Loudoun House during this exhibition: Back With Arms Above (1984), Interlocking Fingers #12 (1999), Hands Spread on Knees (1985), and Hands With Buttocks (1987). Each of these photographs provide a look at the human body in an almost surreal way. In Back With Arms Above and Hands With Buttocks, he contorts his body in such a way that makes himself look more like an object than a human body, curling his fingers into a fist, hunching his shoulders over so his heads or arms aside from the parts above his head are not visible.
Coplans’ art and the rest of the exhibition’s art will be available for viewing during gallery hours at the Loudoun House on are Tuesday - Thursday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm, Friday 10:00am - 8:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm through March 27.
Written by Sammy Petitte, LAL Intern, University of Kentucky CLD Student