John Coplans

John Coplans was a British artist, art writer, curator and museum director who was a WWII war veteran. Some of his work is known as he was a founding member and one time editor-in-chief of Artforum magazine. One of his most famous series of works was a series of black and white photographs that depict the human body, especially his own naked body. His face is never shown within these images, making the viewer question whether it is all his own. This also allows you to come away from the focus of gender and identity – it becomes very personal but generic.

“So, I’m using my body and saying, even though it’s a 70-year-old body, I can make it interesting,” he said of the work. “I don’t know how it happens, but when I pose for one of these photographs, I become immersed n the past…I am somewhere else, another person, or a woman in another life. At times, I’m in my youth.” – Artnet

After the war, he was offered a grant to create art, and was introduced to the Pop Art movement, and which he became deeply involved in as both critic and curator. Occasionally, through his photography, you can get a sense of pain or discomfort with the positions that he puts himself in, perhaps reflecting on the war.

“I have the feeling that I’m alive, I have a body. I’m 70 years old, and generally the bodies of seventy-year old men look somewhat like my body. It’s a neglected subject matter…So, I’m using y body and saying, even though it’s a seventy year old body, I can make it interesting. This keeps me alive and gives me vitality. It’s a kind of process of energizing myself by my belief that the classical tradition of art that we’ve inherited from the Greeks is a load of bullshit.” – Tate

Leave a Reply

Subscribe for the latest art updates in my newsletter