John Coplans

British (London, England, 1920 - 2003, New York City, New York)

Self-Portrait (Upside Down, No. 1)

photograph | gelatin silver print
Not on view at this time; find out where you can see works from our collection at locations around the Bay Area while our building is closed for expansion
  • Self-Portrait (Upside Down, No. 1)

    John Coplans, Self-Portrait (Upside Down, No. 1), 1992; gelatin silver print, 84 1/8 in. (213.68 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Estate of John Coplans

Although now best known as a photographer, Coplans had a long and successful career as a painter, curator, educator, and art critic before taking up the camera at the age of sixty. First as a critic and later as editor-in-chief of Artforum, he wrote about the most significant artists of the 1960s and 1970s, including Ellsworth Kelly and Phillip Guston.

Coplans's self-portraits mark a departure from the more conceptual and intellectual art he promoted in previous decades, and correspond to the turn toward explorations of the body and self in the art of the late 1970s. He considers the marks and wrinkles on his body a record of his life history, which he carefully transcribes in his photographs. Reminiscent of topographical landscapes, these unidealized nudes transform his hairy, aging body into a strangely transfixing and often abstract territory of sags and crags.

84 1/8 in. (213.68 cm)
Acquired 1994
Collection SFMOMA
Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Estate of John Coplans


self-portraits, artists, men, nudes

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