Biography

William N. Copley, (b. 1919, d. 1996), known by the name CPLY, (pronounced ‘see-ply’), was a painter, writer, gallerist, art patron, publisher, and art entrepreneur. Collected in major private and public institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum, The Menil Collection, Stedelijk Museum, and many more, Copley is now seen as a singular personage of post-war painting ­– unique for his links between European Surrealism and American Pop Art and iconoclastic for his untrained painting style and eccentric, amatory motifs.

Since the artist’s death in 1996, Copley has been subject of numerous exhibitions internationally. Recent exhibitions such as X-Rated (Paul Kasmin Gallery, 2010) and Copley (Museum Frieder Burda, 2012) have begun to uncover the full story of CPLY as it stands in the history of 20th century art and painting. Beyond Copley’s own prolific output as an artist, however, he was also an adventurous supporter and patron of artists he admired. With so many sides to the story of CPLY, it poses a difficult task to summarize these various endeavors in short span. Nevertheless this site intends to provide an overview of William N. Copley’s life alongside a selection of exemplary artwork. The following biography presents a summarized account of the major events, periods and projects of Copley’s life.

BIOGRAPHY

William Nelson Copley was born in New York City on January 24, 1919. Orphaned by unknown parents, Copley was cared for by the New York Foundling Hospital until his adoption by Ira Clifton Copley and his wife, Edith Strohn Copley, in 1921. Ira and Edith had already adopted another son, James Strohn Copley, from the New York Foundling Hospital three years earlier.

A prominent Illinois politician and utilities magnate, Ira Copley served in the United States House of Representatives from Illinois’s 11th district between 1911 and 1923. After transforming a family-owned gas company into a major corporation, Ira Copley grew his fortune by selling the company and concentrating solely on building a newspaper publishing enterprise. Amassing several dozen newspapers in the Midwest and California, Ira Copley formed the Copley Press Inc.

In 1929, William Copley’s adoptive mother Edith died of complications from sinus surgery. Following her passing, the family moved from Aurora, Illinois to Coronado, California – a popular resort suburb of San Diego. Ira Copley established headquarters of the Copley Press in San Diego and purchased well-circulated papers in San Diego and as far north as Sacramento. Despite this move, young William Copley would not spend his adolescence in California. At his father’s insistence, he attended the prestigious all-boys school Phillips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts. After completing Andover, Copley was steered to Yale, his father’s alma mater.

An English major, Copley would later write:

“I hated [Andover]. I didn’t like Yale very much either because I didn’t feel I had any choice in the matter. My father was class of 1887, was always having reunions and was a very strong personality. And he felt that I should be a Yale man. So I was at Yale for three years and was a very bad student. And had one art course which was on Saturday mornings. Which was the only class I had on Saturday morning, so I never saw any art. You know, they turn out the lights, start the slides, and I’d sleep it off.” [1]

William left Yale early in 1941 to enlist in the army, eventually serving in North Africa, Sicily and Italy in anti-aircraft and combat divisions. He completed his military service in 1945 with an Honorable Discharge and returned to California at the age of twenty-six. Slated to work for the Copley Press, William joined his elder brother James at the paper but in a junior position, beginning first as a reporter. Copley enjoyed the work immensely, showing an early aptitude as a writer that would not diminish during his painting career.

The two Copley brothers had little in common. James, who had graduated from Yale, looked forward to assuming responsibilities at the Copley Press, whereas William showed little interest in that side of the business. Politically, James was a conservative, later joining the John Birch Society, while William took to socialist causes, working with local branches of the Communist Party, and stumping for progressive candidates.

In 1945 William married Marjorie Doris Wead. The two had met through family friends in California before the war. Doris was the daughter of Frank Wead, the legendary Navy test pilot who, after a debilitating accident, became a screenwriter and playwright. Frank Wead authored many pulp novels, and received Academy Award nominations for screenplays The Citadel and Test Pilot. (Wead’s life was memorialized in the John Ford film The Wings of Eagles starring John Wayne as Frank Wead.) In the year following their marriage, William and Doris would have their first child, a son named William Bryant Copley.

Family, Surrealism, The Copley Galleries and the artist CPLY

On Sunday, November 2nd, 1947, the Aurora Beacon ran a headline below the masthead that read COPLEY DIES. Ira Copley’s passing at 83 would leave an enormous inheritance and equal equity in the Copley Press to his two adopted sons. By this time William had already begun to paint, completing several exploratory portraits of Doris that he had signed “Copley.”

Copley’s inspiration to create these early works could be credited to John Ployardt. It was Ployardt, his brother-in-law, who introduced Copley to Surrealism. Ployardt, a former art student from Montreal and also a man very much out-of-step with his milieu, was a painter, animator and narrator for Walt Disney Studios in Los Angeles. Ployardt became an immediate friend and mentor to Copley, who was three years his junior.

Surrealism promised a liberation of vast significance for Copley, with its commitment to boundary-pushing humor, incongruity, sexual candor, and plumbing of the poetic “unconscious”. It was a visual counter-part to Copley’s literary interests in modernist writers such as James Joyce. Further, it allowed for adventures and impropriety far beyond the life Ira Copley had planned for him as Yale man and steward of the Copley Press.

Ployardt and Copley craved tangible connections to the movement when they discovered that Man Ray, a beacon surrealist, was living and working in Hollywood. They arranged a meeting to test out a far-fetched idea of opening a Surrealist gallery in Los Angeles, an idea they had earlier conceived “one whiskied evening”.[2] Copley later recalled: “He [Man Ray] accepted to show with us on the condition of ten per cent guaranteed purchase. If I’d known then what I know now, I was a crook. He reflected his gratitude by providing us with an introduction to Marcel Duchamp.” [3]

It was through Marcel Duchamp that doors were opened for Ployardt and Copley, who found themselves tending to a bonafide business venture with few precedents in Southern California. Now an early chapter of Los Angeles art history, the story of the Copley Galleries remains an epic told in six exhibitions, debuting the first Los Angeles-area shows of René Magritte, Yves Tanguy, Matta Echaurren, Joseph Cornell, Man Ray and Max Ernst. Copley’s own 1977 memoir Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dealer covers the story most aptly, and is still widely available in German and English editions.

Apart from the genesis of the gallery, which by all accounts delivered sensational exhibitions and very few sales, Copley was increasing the time he devoted to painting. These early works are characterized by portraiture in a variety of naive styles as well as experiments with surrealist themes and imagery. In 1948, the same year the gallery opened, William Copley and Doris Wead’s second child was born. This was Claire Strohn Copley, who herself would later found the Claire S. Copley Gallery, an important conceptual art gallery in 1970s Los Angeles.

Though a novel success in terms of publicity and spectacle, the eponymous Copley Galleries of 1948-49 would prove financially infeasible and closed in the spring of 1949. Because he had promised 10% sales to each artist, he was thus required to purchase a portion of any unsold work himself. This is how Copley’s formidable collection of Surrealist works began. Among the acquired works were Man Ray’s A l’Heure de l’observatoire: Les Amoureux (Observatory Time: the Lovers) and René Magritte’s L’Evidence Eternelle.

After the gallery’s closure Copley would concentrate full-time on his own painting. At the end of 1947, he had adopted the moniker CPLY by dropping the vowels of his surname in homage to Duchamp and perhaps to distinguish himself from American portraiture artist John Singleton Copley. (Copley would later parody the earlier J.S. Copley’s portrait of John Hancock with one of his own, titled Copley’s Hancock). The significance of the adopted name CPLY is that Copley’s identity as an artist with a unique voice had solidified.

Separating from his first wife Doris Wead in 1950, Copley began a relationship with Gloria De Herrera, a young art conservator for the Los Angeles County Museum. The new couple lived in a converted firehouse in Los Angeles where Copley set up his studio. Copley’s first exhibition was held at Royer’s Book Shop in Los Angeles in January 1951. Royer himself was a colorful character, a bohemian dealer of Dada & Surrealist literary journals, but also a back room seller of pornographic literature, apparently the bookstore’s chief source of income. [4]

The Royer’s show exhibited many surrealist-influenced paintings begun as early as 1947, but also included portraits in cubist styles, and other pictures exploring autobiographical themes. A catalogue published for the show included a poem by Dorothea Tanning in homage to Copley, titled “On the Paintings of Bill Copley.” Tanning, and her husband Max Ernst, would remain close with Copley for many decades.

In March 1951, Copley pursued life outside of Los Angeles’s barren art scene by expatriating to France. He sailed from New York in March 1951 on the SS De Grasse with Man Ray, Man’s wife, Juliet Browner, and Gloria De Herrera. Marcel Duchamp was at the dock to see them off.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young “Ex-Patriot”

The early to mid-1950s were a time of great growth and change for Copley. After having moved to Paris, Copley painted in a studio on the Rue Rousselet and then at the Impasse Ronsin. It was a densely prolific and fruitful climate for Parisian post-war art. Impasse Ronsin was home to studios of Brancusi, Jean Tinguely, Niki de Saint Phalle, and many others.

During these years Copley continued to work for the Copley Press, submitting articles for syndication in several different papers, (The San Diego Tribune, The Elgin-Courier, San Pedro Pilot, et.al). These stories depicted life abroad from the point of view of an American everyman enthralled by European culture, but they played down his personal commitment to painting.

Copley’s first European solo shows were staged at Nina Daussett in Paris, in 1953, and Galleria Montenapoleone in Milan in 1954. Paintings in these shows exulted Copley’s new world, many of them referencing the quirks of European culture and art history. Bidets and reclining nudes were favorite subjects. Other paintings paid lighthearted homage to friends and artists such as Man Ray, René Magritte, Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia, whom Copley never met but revered.

As a novice painter among experts, if not outright masters, Copley would seek encouragement from Marcel Duchamp. Copley relayed the story to Phyllis Kind in a 1983 interview:

“Duchamp never said anything was good or anything was bad, but I got a chance to show him some of my work and he said, ‘You should continue.’ And that to me was like the Oracle of Delphi telling me to ‘Go Ahead.’ God had spoken, you know.”

On December 31,1953, Copley married Noma Ratner, a friend of many Surrealist artists and avant-garde composers. The couple purchased and renovated an estate in Longpont-sur-Orge, a small village outside of Paris. Longpont became a gathering place for artists and friends as well as a showplace for Copley’s growing Surrealist collection. He commissioned Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry to build a painting studio on the property.

With Noma, William Copley co-founded the William and Noma Copley Foundation in 1954, an organization whose aim was to “aid and encourage creative individuals in specific fields of painting, sculpture and music composition.” Grants would be determined by a board of six directors and nine advisers, among the directors were Marcel Duchamp and Darius Milhaud. (The Foundation would later finance a series of publications on awardees that were edited and designed by Richard Hamilton.)

In 1954, with the help of his attorney Barnet Hodes, Copley initiated a lawsuit against his adoptive brother, James, for mismanagement of the Copley Press. Whether a ploy to divorce himself from duties to the Press, or for financial liberation, the case was successfully settled for a windfall sum for Copley in 1959. James bought out William’s shares and so obtained a near full majority stake in the Copley Press, a professional boon for him as well. The brothers never communicated again.

By this time William Copley was already a committed artist, patron and philanthropist, but he was no longer a reporter for the Copley Press. Copley now put all his energy into his career as an artist and had enough money to support his patronage and philanthropy. He launched exhibitions of his work in Italy, Paris and New York, where he formed an important and lasting relationship with adventurous surrealist gallerist Alexander Iolas, who mounted Copley’s first New York show in 1958.

Copley’s paintings of the late 1950s show the artist venturing into singular territory. First a series of Car paintings from 1955 and 1956 showed pictures of oversized, imaginary American cars romping through European city streets and countryside picnics, many of which evoked Manet’s Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe. Compositions of these works were divided into multiple vignettes, or multiple narrative movements in one painting – a device possibly referencing Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase.

Copley followed the Car series with works incorporating city scenes and tiny nudes in flat background washes of abstract color, likely derived from the influence of his friend Matta. In these paintings we see the first of Copley’s anonymous gentlemen, policemen, and prostitutes, the men donning tweed suits and Bowler hats, the women typically nude or in lingerie.

Copley’s Return to the United States

By 1962, the Paris art scene was paling compared to the bustle of the art scene in New York, where Pop was beginning its ascendancy, and where perhaps Copley felt his work would be more resonant. William and Noma Copley sold the Longpont home and moved to Manhattan, renting an apartment at 150 East 69th Street. Ironically, and perhaps not accidentally, the apartment was across the street from the New York Foundling Hospital from which Copley had been adopted.

Though now a New York resident, Copley continued to exhibit in Europe. He enjoyed a string of riotous openings and exhibitions at Galerie Iris Clert, Galleria Arturo Schwarz, Galerie Iolas, as well as London’s ICA and Hanover galleries. This prolific period is marked by a range of often satirical and playful oil paintings, many of which mocked the international politics of the day, as seen in the Flags series, or further developed Copley’s unique take on eroticism and sex. Frequently these paintings incorporated lace as a textural element, first appearing as painted lace then appearing as a collaged element, often glued in areas or rolled across the canvas for Copley to use as a background.

The first of several retrospective exhibitions would take place at the Stedelijk Museum in 1966, with works from the 1950s through the mid-1960s, with emphasis on recent work. Attending this opening were many old friends, including René Magritte, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and Man Ray. Photographs from the event show the Surrealist group holding copies of the show’s catalogue, a parody of Playboy with the title Copley: Entertainment for Men. The publication was dedicated to Hugh Hefner.

Ballads & The Letter Edged In Black Press

By 1965, after experimenting with many techniques, Copley switched from oil to acrylic paint, and embarked on a new stylistic direction, a dashed or broken line motif that began with black lines on a raw background, a technique heavily influenced by drawing. The dashed-line works of the 1966 exhibition Projects for Monuments to the Unknown Whore at Alexander Iolas Gallery in New York were as much exercises in drawing as they were Copley’s first monumental paintings, both in size, as they were often painted on large canvases, and in theme.

In 1966, close friend and sculptor H.C. Westermann introduced him to the poems and stories of Robert W. Service. This sparked a new series by Copley. These Ballads paintings adapted storylines from poems by Robert W. Service and other lesser-known folk writers. Many of these sources were in fact anonymous poems and songs, lyrical narratives, all traditional American motifs that Copley had memorized as a young boy.

Titles of the paintings were taken from entire stanzas, exemplified in works such as Oh, He Rang The Bell And Whistled And Then He Said, “Good Morning To You Jack”, But He Little Knew The Sorrow That He Brought Me When He Handed Me A Letter Edged In Black.

The final four words of the latter painting’s title would find new use within the year as the moniker for Copley’s famed publishing venture of 1968, The Letter Edged In Black Press, Inc. The Letter Edged in Black Press published a series of portfolios of painstakingly reproduced loose-leaf artist’s facsimiles under the name S.M.S., (short for Shit Must Stop).

These portfolios were mailed to subscribers in specially designed boxes. Well-known elder artists submitted work for S.M.S. alongside 1968’s most nascent young artists, fostering a spirit of cross-generation participation. Copley thought of S.M.S. as supplying “instant art collections” and he reveled in the anti-institutional nature of the venture.

In 1967 he had divorced Noma Copley and then married Stella Yang, a novelist, in 1968. S.M.S. lasted only one year, 1968, and in the fall of that year Copley lost perhaps the most seminal figure in his life. Marcel Duchamp passed away on the 2nd of October in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

Duchamp’s death came not long after submitting his one-sided rotary record of puns to S.M.S., and leaving his final masterwork Étant Donnes to Copley’s foundation, now operating under the name Cassandra, for acquisition by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Rarely at a loss for words, Copley wrote Duchamp’s obituary for the New York Times. It remains a touching remembrance in honor of the great artist and friend.

Following these events, Copley would go back to the drawing board as 1969 gave way to a new decade in which Copley would produce his two most recognizable series of works: Nouns and X-Rated.

From Hidden To Not-So-Hidden Pornography

The Alexander Iolas galleries of New York and Paris debuted a string of exhibitions showcasing Copley’s new Nouns series in 1970, 1971 and 1972. These paintings and drawings focused primarily on everyday objects and mailorder items (“ridiculous images” as Copley called them) that displayed hidden and humorous sexual associations as well as vibrant patterning and idiosyncratic renderings.

Copley explained the so-called “hidden pornography” of the Nouns paintings in a 1974 interview with Sam Hunter, saying, “My last exhibition [Mailorder, 1972] in which I used mail order objects exclusively expressed a hidden pornography. I say pornography because I am seriously concerned with the distinction between pornography and eroticism. It’s easy to hide pornography in objects.”

Deciding to no longer hide anything, Copley brazenly launched an exhibition of joyous, humorous paintings of copulating couples and autonomous nudes in every conceivable position and pose, some clearly copied from hardcore adult magazines, and others from only slightly-less hardcore titles. Incongruously exhibited at the stodgy New York Cultural Center on Columbus Circle in New York, (now site of the Museum of Art & Design), the 1974 X-Rated show achieved Copley’s goal to balance humor and form, which he had envisioned in an earlier interview with Francine Du Plessix in 1966:

“The problem that interests me most in painting – it’s a tough problem – is to find that 50-50 balance between form and humor which many great masterpieces of literature have achieved… The cornerstone of humor is sex because sex is so violently spiritual and so violently physical at the same time… You laugh at a puppy dog or at the backside of a woman, not because it’s funny, but because you love it.”

1776 and ALL THAT

Copley painted his final X-Rated painting in 1975, a year before the United States would celebrate its bicentennial. The artistic and cultural climate of New York in 1976 was energized and yet Copley was now tending to anguished personal matters – the dissolution of another marriage. A drawn out separation with Stella Yang left their young daughter Theo Copley, (born in 1972), with a divided home, and Copley’s personal art-collection with an unstable future. While preparing for the collection’s dispersal, (culminating in the record-breaking Sotheby’s Parke auction of 1979), Copley completed a series of droll Patriotic-themed works to mark the bicentennial, an artistic and political opportunity that Copley couldn’t resist. These paintings were exhibited at Alexander Iolas in 1976 under the title The Patriotism of CPLY: 1776 and All That.

While continuing to exhibit with Alexander Iolas in New York, he started showing with a Chicago dealer, Phyllis Kind, who also operated an outfit in Soho, where Copley would later exhibit in the 1980s. Phyllis Kind exhibited outsider artists, as well as the Chicago Imagists who Copley admired and who admired Copley’s work in turn.

In 1979 he presented a new series at Alexander Iolas Gallery in New York titled Variations on a Theme by Francis Picabia. The series of paintings riffed on a well-known 1922 painting by Francis Picabia, La Nuit Espagnole, which had formerly been in Copley’s collection. In tandem with the Iolas exhibition, Copley produced an elaborate artist’s calendar for the occasion. The calendar contained large color reproductions of each Picabia variation, along with daily entries of maxims, epigrams, and jokes handwritten by Copley and his assistants. The calendar comprises a literary snapshot of CPLY’s philosophy and sense of humor.

Three X-Rated paintings by Copley were included in Marcia Tucker’s seminal “Bad” Painting show at the New Museum in 1978 included three X-Rated paintings, making a strong case for Copley’s ahead-of-trend dismissal of the necessity for accuracy and draftsmanship in painting. Alongside Copley were like-minded peers such as Joan Brown and Neil Jenney.

Reflection On A Past Life

John and Domenique De Menil were warm friends of Copley. John’s passing in 1973 left Domenique to become the sole steward of the Institute of the Arts at Rice University, which they had co-founded. In 1979, the Institute launched an exhibition of Copley’s work drawing from the loans of sixteen Houston collectors, including the De Menils. The show and acompanying catalogue were both titled Reflection on a Past Life. The publication included the first appearance in English of Copley’s memoir Portrait of the Artist as Young Dealer. (This insightful and often hilarious account of his brief foray as a Los Angeles gallerist was earlier published in French for the catalogue of Paris-New York, a massive group survey curated by Pontus Hulten for the Centres Georges Pompidou in 1977).

Included in the Rice University show was also a new installation of mirrors. These wall-hangings were reliefs incised with outlines of previous paintings, spanning the Ballads series and works from the late 60s and early 70s. Handmade wallpaper was produced to create the imagined walls of an old-time brothel. (A dedicated exhibition of the mirrors had premiered in 1978 at Alexander Iolas Gallery in New York under the title The Temptation of St. Anthony).

Planning for a comprehensive European retrospective at the Kunsthalle Bern began in 1976. Copley had by then made strong connections to German and Swiss curators such as Harald Szeemann, who included him in 1972’s Documenta 5, and the brothers Kaspar and Walther König. (Walther was an early publisher of Copley, who printed the Nouns-era artist’s book Notes on a Project for a Dictionary of Ridiculous Images in 1972, shortly after opening the legendary Verlag der Buchandlung Walther König).

The substantial support of these European curators culminated in the four-venue traveling retrospective organized by Johannes Gachnang, which opened at the Kunsthalle Bern, then travelled to the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Its final venue was the Badischer Kunstverin in Karlsruhe, Germany.

The mid-1980s were in their own way retrospective years for Copley, who began to revisit earlier themes in his work, such as the later Car series of 1983 and 1984, and the “sculptural” collection of painted Screens, or Paravents. By the late 1980s, Copley was well into his later middle-years and preferred to live and work quietly, rather than socialize in the art world as he had earlier decades.

Splitting his time between his homes in Connecticut and Key West, Copley had had a brief marriage to fourth wife Marjorie Annapav, for whom Copley commissioned a well-known portrait by his good friend Andy Warhol. The marriage is portrayed in The Andy Warhol Diaries published posthumously in 1989.

The Tomb of the Unknown Whore

In early 1986, Copley installed an immersive installation at the New Museum titled The Tomb of the Unknown Whore, his brashest and most bombastic installation. Four massive paintings such as the 82 x 120 in. acrylic I Give Aid and Comfort overlooked a den of iniquity filled with cocaine mirrors, pornography and vandalized church pews. Though in many ways an installation of punk-ish nihilism, Copley’s Tomb project was a re-statement of a long-held viewpoint humanizing sex-workers, (even if his terminology – “whores” – had by then become outmoded). In a 1991 interview with Alan Jones, Copley explained:

“The Unknown Whore is certainly as important as the Unknown Soldier: they’ve both been had. Everybody forgets that a prostitute is a woman before she is a prostitute. We have a way of putting people in categories and keeping them there.”

Despite these intentions, the visitor’s book for the exhibition was scrawled with criticisms of “misogyny disguised as art” and “garbage.” In a television interview filmed by Vincent Fremont for the Andy Warhol TV show, Copley shrugged off the derision, adding that he even welcomed visitors to vandalize the works, saying, “I want them to come in and write on these walls and these paintings. It’s the reaction I’ve been wanting to get!”

Copley’s works of the later 1980s and early 1990s retained a fascination with surrealism, and the battle of the sexes. (Copley in short time married again, a fifth wife named Jackie Prescott, which again ended hastily). In 1991, Copley would have his last show with Phyllis Kind, a bittersweet collection of paintings of faceless men in Bowler hats and itchy tweed suits, cavorting with undressed women rendered in carefree, dashed contour lines.

Last Years

William Copley’s last major retrospective exhibition was held at the Kestner-Gessellschaft in Hannover, Germany, the country in which Copley enjoyed his most unflagging institutional support. Curated by Carl Haenlein, William N. Copley: Heed Greed Trust Lust (Paintings 1951 – 1994) collected a vast array of exemplary works in German and Swiss collections. Copley was now in his middle-70s, and unable to attend the exhibition. He instead opted to remain in Key West, Florida, where he was now married again to his sixth and last wife Cynthia Gooch.

In these final years in Key West, Copley remained committed to painting and drawing with obsessive productivity. Walther König published an artist’s book of Ballads-themed drawings in 1995 titled The Strumpet Muse: Images of Robert W. Service. Looser than ever, these drawings attest to the naturalness of expression Copley had clearly achieved by the age of 76, having spent the last five decades concerned with little else than art and its potential for poetry and transformative experience.

In late April 1996, William Copley suffered a stroke at his home in Sugar Loaf Key, Florida. Though resilient to earlier health complications, (he had undergone coronary bypass surgery in 1986), Copley would not recover from this sudden debilitation. The artist died on May 7, 1996. Two days later, New York Times would publish an obituary by Roberta Smith that listed the long, unlikely adventures lead by this larger-than-life personality. Smith wrote, “Mr. Copley lead a charmed life that included not only painting but also art dealing and collecting and philanthropy.”

In 1997, a year after Copley’s passing, the first posthumous CPLY retrospective was launched at the Ulm Museum in Ulm, Germany. The show, titled True Confessions, was followed up by a terrific overview curated by Copley’s old friend and supporter Johannes Gachnang in 2003. Gachnang’s show at the BAWAG Foundation in Vienna was titled Easy to Read Storybook, and the show’s catalogue connected Copley’s work to the misunderstood later paintings of Francis Picabia, as well as the shamelessly libidinal drawings of Robert Crumb. In the years since these shows, attention toward Copley’s painting has only increased – younger artists have mounted homages to Copley, and there has been an increase in scholarship on his publications, his patronage and his role in early Los Angeles contemporary art history. The many sides of CPLY are only now beginning to come to light. ∎

[1] Oral history interview with William 1 Nelson Copley, 1968 Jan. 30, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

[2] Ibid.

[3] William Copley, “Portrait of the Artist As a Young Dealer”, Reflection On A Past Life, Institute of the Arts, Rice University, Houston, Texas, 1979. pg. 11

[4] Walter Hopps quoted in Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art 1945 – 1980, Getty Research Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Ed. Rebecca Peabody, Andrew Perchuk, Glenn Phillips, and Rani Singh. (Original quote taken from Walter Hopps’ transcript Modern Art in the L.A.: The Late Forties”, a public discussion at the Getty Center, (6 February 2003).