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1920 -2003


Abstract 1958

oil and mixed media on board

98 x 76.5 cm


signed and dated John Coplans '58 on the reverse and further inscribed

£8,500 + ARR

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This painting typifies the summer of 1958 where gestural abstract painting reached its pinnacle in London culminating in a ground breaking exhibition at Gimpel Fils where the new generation Richard Smith, Robyn Denny, Sandra Blow, Harold Cohen, Alan Davie and Gillian Ayres produced some startling abstracts. Coplans was a key exhibitor in the seminal "Metavisual, Tachiste, Abstract" exhibition held at the Redfern Gallery a year before in 1957. His style evolved here to be more similar to his peers, using different paint mediums and leaving parts of the panel unpainted.

In 1960, as London went 'POP' and these abstract became linear and hard edged, Coplans sold all his belongings and emigrated to the United States, moving to San Francisco. In 1962, he participated in the creation of Artforum. The magazine quickly established itself as a monthly reference for art and creative news. The first of its kind on the West Coast, it supported and united artists, helping to bring out the “Los Angeles scene” and “West Coast art”. Coplans was its editor from 1971 to 1977 (in New York, where the magazine moved in 1967). 

John Coplans was also a curator, director of the Art Gallery of the University of California at Irvine (1965‑1967) and Senior Curator of the Pasadena Art Museum in (1967-1970). From 1978 to 1980, he directed the Akron Art Museum, Ohio. At this time, he began his first photographic experiments. 

In 1980, he decided to cease these activities to become an artist again and to devote himself to photography for which he is now much better known. He moved to New York. From 1985 onwards, he exhibited regularly in France and Europe. In 1988, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) set up the first major exhibition of the photographer, which was then presented at the MoMA in New York the same year. John Coplans died in New York on August 21, 2003.


There was a major exhibition of his photographs - 'John Coplans. La Vie des Forms' - at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris in Jan 2022.


John Coplans

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