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John Coplans photography, La Vie des Formes at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris

From October 5, 2021 until January 16, 2022.

Curated by Jean-François Chevrier and Elia Pijollet, the exhibition is coproduced with Le Point du Jour, Centre d’Art d’éditeur, in Cherbourg in Cotentin where it will be shown from January 29 to May 15, 2022.

16 Octobre 2021 - 06:00

Body Parts, No 8, 2001©The John Coplans Trust
Body Parts, No 8, 2001©The John Coplans Trust

John Coplans (London 1920 – New York 2003)

Born in London in 1920, John Coplans was the son of a medical doctor and art amateur and spent most of his childhood between London and South Africa. In 1937, aware of the global danger posed by National Socialist Germany, he joined the British army and fought until 1945 in East Africa, in India and Burma.
In 1946, Coplans began art studies which he abandoned to move to London. For ten years, he painted and contributed to the rise of abstract art, in the wake of lyrical abstraction, then ‘Hard Edge’ minimalist art.

Lying Figure, Holding Hands, Four panels, 1990©The John Coplans Trust
Lying Figure, Holding Hands, Four panels, 1990©The John Coplans Trust

Coplans moves to the United States

In 1960, John Coplans emigrated to the United States to settle in San Francisco. In 1962, he participated in the creation of Artforum which 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 artCoplans was editor-in-chief from 1971 to 1977 in New York, where the magazine moved in 1967.
John Coplans was also a curator and director of the Art Gallery of the University of California at Irvine (1965-1967) and Senior Curator of the Pasadena Art Museum (1967-1970). From 1978 to 1980, he directed the Akron Art Museum, Ohio. At this point, he began his first photographic experiments.

Front Hand, Thumb Up, Middle 1998©The John Coplans Trust
Front Hand, Thumb Up, Middle 1998©The John Coplans Trust

John Coplans exhibition, La Vie des Formes, at the Fondation Henri-Cartier Bresson

François Hebel, the director of the Fondation HCB in Paris, in his introduction to the artist at the opening described the photographer as : ‘A formal and fearless photographer, Coplans uses his naked body as the sole material for his sensual, disconcerting, radical and personal compositions'.
Works on show here, on loan from French collections, testify to the audacity of this British artist, known for his uncompromising body representations. He represented himself nude, in black and white, and often fragmented, his head always out of frame. Coplans attributed the generic title Self-Portraits to these images produced between 1984 – 2002.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a book published by Le Point du Jour: John Coplans. Un corps, edited by Jean-François Chevrier.
Format : 14 x 20,5 cm (bound). Around 40 illustrations and 196 pages, at 22 euros
ISBN : 978-2-912132-97-0 Publication : October 2021.

Back with Arms Above, 1984©The John Coplans Trust
Back with Arms Above, 1984©The John Coplans Trust

Structure of the exhibition

The exhibition La Vie des Formes is structured in three sets presented chronologically.

First, small prints made at the start of Coplans’ career in photography (Torso, Back, Hands, Feet...) ; followed by, in 1988, large formats and montage combining several body fragments to create a single, but disjointed image ; and finally, as a great connoisseur of art history, Coplans integrated research on artists he studied, exhibited and knew into his own work, with a selection of works by artists such as Brancusi, Carleton Watkins, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Jan Groover, Weegee and Philip Guston.

Feet Frontal, 1984©The John Coplans Trust
Feet Frontal, 1984©The John Coplans Trust

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

79, rue des Archives, 75003 Paris, telephone 0140615050
Closed on Monday. European Health Pass and masks required for those over 12 years of age.
Open from Tuesdays until Sunday from 11h until 19h
tickets may be purchased in advance, ranging from 9€ per visitor.

John Coplans photography, La Vie des Formes


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Mots-clés de l'article : fondation Henri Cartier Bresson

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