William N. Copley
New York, 293 10th Avenue
“American artist William Copley, creator of madcap narrative paintings, drawings, and installations, was both an insider and an outsider,” begins the press release of The World According to CPLY, the Menil Collection’s 2016 retrospective dedicated to the late artist’s decades spanning career. Adopted by a wealthy conservative media mogul family as a child, Copley (also known as “CPLY”) studied at Yale University until he joined the army during WWII before completing his education. Aside from his artistic practice, as an art entrepreneur and gallerist, Copley had close friendships with influential Surrealists and Dadaists such as Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, and Yves Tanguy.
Surrealism gave Copley the artistic and expressional freedom he grew up lacking due to his conservative upbringing. From world politics to American culture, he depicted a vast array of topics in his signature fashion immersed in vibrant colors and voluptuous forms. In this exhibition, over twenty paintings from the artist’s various stages of his career share one element, which is women, one of Copley’s many recurring themes. Tapping onto different topics such as body politics, sexual expression, and cultural taboos, the paintings the artist made while residing in different cities like Los Angeles and Paris chronicle his turbulent biography.
“The problem that interests me most in painting – it’s a tough problem – is to find that 50-50 balance between form and humor which many great masterpieces of literature have achieved… The cornerstone of humor is sex because sex is so violently spiritual and so violently physical at the same time… You laugh at a puppy dog or at the backside of a woman, not because it’s funny, but because you love it,” stated Copland about his employment of irony in his paintings.
On view through March 4, 2017