Time Out New York

The best upcoming art shows in 2015

January 2, 2015

Anne Doran

This delightful exhibition brings together works on paper from William N. Copley (1919-1996), the iconoclastic American painter who signed his works CPLY. A wealthy patron of the Surrealists, Copley taught himself to paint in the late 1940s, developing a cartoonish style that combined Matisse's love of patterns, Picabia's subversiveness and Krazy Kat creator George Herriman's knowing humor. His recurring motifs have included a tweed-suited everyman who pursues life, liberty and pneumatic blonds while being pursued, in turn, by angry gendarmes and wives.

Some of Copley's '70s-vintage drawings are related to two groups of his Pop-influenced canvases: "Nouns," which depict ordinary items like tools, and "X-Rated Paintings," based on pictures from porn magazines. In the former, an overstuffed sofa epitomizes Victorian probity, while a view of the corner of a room speaks of claustrophobia and existential despair. The latter includes what could be viewed as an icon of the period's sexual revolution: a hirsute woman, clad only in a crocheted top. However, a series of ascending triangles defining her torso (her pubis an opening around her navel and her plunging neckline) also suggests a nod to Brancusi's Endless Column--one of several references to modern art in the show. Some artists' drawings shed light on their working process. Copley's--absurdist, affecting and politically incorrect--are the pure expression of an irreverent spirit. 

The Bottom Line: One of art history's original bad boy's is back. 


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