Paul Kasmin Gallery is pleased to present William N. Copley X-RATED, a large-scale recreation of the artist’s 1974 exhibition in the former Huntington Hartford Museum on Columbus Circle. Highly original, libidinous, and unapologeticly joyful, the paintings were unlike anything being made at that time. This body of work, painted between 1972 and 1974, represents a pivotal leap in the artist’s style and is rich with irreverent yet ambitious compositions, unbridled combinations of highly-keyed colors, and generous doses of off-beat humor.
CPLY (the artist’s self-chosen moniker) here presents single figures, pairs, and the occasional group–their gestures and actions translated from magazines procured in seedy 42nd street emporiums–posing and coupling eagerly amid vivid arrays of abstract patterns and lyrical motifs, romping furniture, and tilting planes of scumbled color. Throughout, CPLY strives to uncover the joy and poetry in this most unlikely of subjects, with the belief that “humor, after all is the reminder that we are mortal.” It is a body of work that stands alone in Copley’s ouvre and resolutely apart from the driving narratives in the contemporary art world of the early 1970s.
As a painter, writer, gallerist, supporter, and publisher, the artist blazed a singular path through numerous territories of post-war art, along the way charting a vital link between the European Surrealist and the American Pop Art movements. A fully-illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition, featuring a new essay by Anne Doran and a reprinting of CPLY’s memoir Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dealer, an outrageous chronicle of his short-lived but legendary Surrealist gallery in Beverly Hills.
William N. Copley was born in 1919 and passed away in 1996. His work is in private and public collections worldwide. CPLY has been the subject of numerous single artist shows and a traveling retrospective at the Kunsthalle Bern, Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Stedelijk Van Abbesmuseum, and has taken part in important group exhibitions including in documenta 5 and documenta 7.
“There is no art in the world that looks like the art of Bill Copley.” – Ed Ruscha
“Bill Copley’s work is to die for…” – Andy Warhol
“There was a painter named Copley who never would miss a good lay and to make his paintings erotic instead of brushes, he simply used his prick.” – Marcel Duchamp
“Cply cmpltly cptvts me.” – Roy Lichtenstein
“Copley est un rire de nuage.” – Jean Arp