John Coplans: A self portrait 1984-1999 (paperback)

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National Galleries of Scotland Publishing
John Coplans
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21 x 21 cm

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This informative illustrated photographic paperback book accompanied John Coplans first retrospective in Britain held in 1999 at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. 

His moving and sometimes disturbing ‘self-portraits’ derive from 4x5 inch Polaroid negatives, though many are blown up two or three times life size. By using black and white film, a neutral background and omitting his head, the artist creates a figure that is anonymous and ageless, and curiously masculine and feminine simultaneously.

Abstract painter, teacher, magazine editor, art critic, museum director and now photographer, John Coplans (b.1920) has had an extraordinary career. He started taking photographs of his naked body at the age of sixty-four, and over the past ten years has had exhibitions in major American and European museums.

Coplans parodies the tradition of the nude in art history, as well as distorting his body into half-recognisable shapes suggesting other organs, animals or even landscapes. As Martin Hammer argues in this cogent introduction to Coplan’s work, in their monumentality, simplicity and search for a primordial language, these images recall the universalist aspirations of Abstract Expressionist painting.