John Coplans

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'Back with Arms Above', black and white photograph by John Coplans, 1984

John Coplans (June 24, 1920 – August 2003) was a British artist. A veteran of World War II and a photographer, he emigrated to the United States in 1960 and had many exhibitions in Europe and North America.[citation needed] He was on the editorial staff of Artforum from 1962 to 1971, and was Editor-in-Chief from 1972 to 1977.

Artistic practice[edit]

Coplans is known for his series of black and white self-portraits which are a frank study of the naked, aging body. He photographed his body from the base of his foot to the wrinkles on his hand. As he never photographed his face, his images are not focused on a specific man or identity.


Coplans had a long affiliation with Artforum. He was there at the founding of the magazine, in San Francisco in 1962; he followed it to Los Angeles, then, in 1967, to New York. With the departure in 1971 of Philip Leider, he became editor in chief, presiding over the tumultuous years that saw the core editorial group break apart into a handful of factions. Coplans's reign at Artforum was considered a time of editorial catholicity, reflecting a moment of expanding media, practices, and modes of engagement within contemporary art.


As a curator at the Pasadena Art Museum in the mid-'60s, Coplans was among the earliest champions of Pop art and a vociferously sympathetic critic of the work of Roy Lichtenstein and especially Andy Warhol. (He organized a survey of Pop as early as 1963 and later was responsible for retrospectives of Lichtenstein and Warhol as well as the 1968 "Serial Imagery" exhibition.) He also was director of the Akron Art Museum, Ohio beginning in 1978.[citation needed]

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