John Coplans

  • He Was Extremely Terse

    PHIL WAS A marvelous editor. He had paid his way through college by writing master’s theses on any subject for other students at $75 a throw. During his military service he had been the fastest typist in the army. Contrary to accusations and impressions, he was an extremely wide-angled editor, who published an enormous variety of articles. When I began working for the magazine I wasn’t a writer, I was a painter, and it was very painful for me to write. But I'd take an article to him and in no time he'd chop the beginning off, tell me where it ought to start, change everything around, make it

  • A Conversation

    John Coplans works as an artist in New York. An exhibition of his photographs initiated at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Portugal, is currently traveling. He was editor of Artforum from January 1972 to February 1977.

    PETER PLAGENS: I remember you telling me in the ’70s, when you had moved to New York and I was still in Los Angeles, “You people out in L.A. think the continent of art is America, with New York on the east coast and L.A. on the west. But it’s not. The continent of art is the Atlantic Ocean, with New York on the west coast and the European cities on the east, and you guys

  • Mel Bochner on Malevich, an Interview

    WHAT STRIKES YOU ABOUT the Guggenheim show?

    What interests me about Malevich is the characteristics of the paintings themselves. It’s important to realize that Malevich was not involved in a reductionist enterprise. He was not a reductive painter, nor was he an abstract painter.

    What do you mean by a reductionist painter? What do you mean by an abstract painter?

    His black square doesn’t derive from the edge of the canvas. It’s not deduced from the structure of the support; it is a priori. His so-called black squares are never square. For that matter his lines are never parallel to the edges of the

  • Robert Smithson, the “Amarillo Ramp”

    A song of the rolling earth, and of words accordingly,

    Were you thinking that those were the words, those upright lines?

    those curves, angles, dots?

    No, those are not the words, the substantial words are in the

    ground and sea,

    They are in the air, they are in you.


    —Walt Whitman, A Song of the Rolling Earth

    ROBERT SMITHSON WAS A PROBLEM from the beginning. When first exhibited in The Jewish Museum’s “Primary Structure” exhibition in 1966, his sculpture looked eccentric compared to the prevalent notion of the Minimalist style. Smithson’s adoption of the spiral motif contrasted strongly with the

  • Strike at the Modern

    ON OCTOBER 15, 1973 two editors of Artforum Lawrence Alloway and John Coplans—interviewed four members of the strike committee of PASTA (The Professional and Administrative Staff Association of The Museum of Modern Art) Susan Bertram (Senior Program Assistant, International Program), Jane Fluegel (Associate Editor, Publications), Jennifer Licht (Associate Curator, Painting and Sculpture), and Joan Rabenau (Administrative Assistant, Education). The questions posed by the editors are in italics, and the answers given by the four staff members have been set in roman type. Artforum contacted The

  • An Interview with Don Judd

    “I Am Interested In Static Visual Art And Hate Imitation Of Movement.”

    JOHN COPLANS: On what basis did you formulate your early work?

    DON JUDD: Two things: the public situation and my own situation. Through most of the ’50s the dominant style was very loose painting—it was all Abstract Expressionist painting, so there was almost no idea for art that wasn’t very sloshy and organic. The idea of geometric painting was a very rare thing, so the few people who worked that way weren’t the ones that were most regarded, like Barnett Newman or Ad Reinhardt. On my side the person that impressed me most was

  • The Early Work of Andy Warhol

    OF THE SEVERAL ARTISTS WHO WERE to emerge as the leading proponents of Pop art in the sixties nearly all were professionally trained painters; many had years of serious endeavor behind them, even if in other styles. Some may have worked from time to time in jobs outside of their chosen career to support themselves, but their knowledge of art was extremely sophisticated. Warhol is possibly the only exception. Yet once he made the decision to switch from commercial art to painting, the rapidity of his transformation was startling. From the beginning of his painting career (sometime toward the end

  • The Earlier Work of Ellsworth Kelly

    THE MORPHOLOGY OF ELLSWORTH KELLY’S ART remains virtually unknown. Almost exclusively such critical discussion of his art that has taken place has been based on the body of single image, neo-biomorphic and heraldic paintings exhibited subsequent to his return to New York in 1954 at Betty Parsons Gallery (and also in London and Paris). His early work has only recently been randomly exposed; consequently, critical discussion of Kelly’s art invariably lacks a coherent structure, or presents a wholly incomplete picture of his accomplishment. For the most part, it has been taken for granted that the

  • Douglas Wheeler: Light Paintings

    DOUG WHEELER WAS BORN IN Globe, Arizona in 1939. He currently resides in Venice, California. The two Doug Wheeler light paintings illustrated here measure 88 by 84 inches and are thus slightly larger than a standing man with his arms outstretched. Their scale is kinesthetic. They approximate the size that can most appropriately encompass all the movements of a human body within a limited space. If the paintings were considerably smaller they would be more related to the act of seeing or, by implication, of reading. If they were any larger there would be a loss of tension. Moreover, the size and

  • Serial Imagery

    As nature becomes more abstract, a relation is more clearly felt. The new painting has clearly shown this. And that is why it has come to the point of expressing nothing but relations.

    —Piet Mondrian

    Abstract art or non-pictorial art is as old as this century, and though more specialized than previous art, is clearer and more complete, and like all modern thought and knowledge, more demanding in its grasp of relations.

    —Ad Reinhardt

    SERIAL IMAGERY IS A TYPE of repeated form or structure shared equally by each work in a group of related works made by one artist. To paint in series, however, is not

  • James Turrell: Projected Light Images

    JAMES TURRELL WAS BORN IN Los Angeles, California, in 1943; he currently lives in Santa Monica, California. Turrell’s images are projected from a slightly modified, but standard, high intensity projector positioned on the gallery ceiling. No attempt is made to conceal the projectors, and as a consequence of the intensity of the projected light image, it is not necessary for the gallery to be in absolute darkness. His monochromatic images consist of simple geometric configurations, for example, a square or a rectangle. In some instances, the overall geometric shape is modified by the removal of

  • Talking with Roy Lichtenstein

    Q: How do you do your paintings?

    A: I just do them. I do them as directly as possible. If I am working from a cartoon, photograph or whatever, I draw a small picture—the size that will fit into my opaque projector—and project it onto the canvas. I don’t draw a picture in order to reproduce it—I do it in order to recompose it. Nor am I trying to change it as much as possible. I try to make the minimum amount of change, although sometimes I work from two or three different original cartoons and combine them. I go all the way from having my drawing almost like the original, to making it up altogether.