Los Angeles


David Stuart Galleries

The paintings, assemblages, stained glass window, and flags of CPLY are a mixed bag of dedicated dilettantism, a body of humor most often aimed at a purely literary or private level. Copley, writer, collector, and patron, avoids pretense profundity through the ploy “wit as art,” disclaiming ambition and putting off critical appraisal. As Man Ray has stated, in Europe visual puns are accepted, while here they are snickered at. For soon the humor and innocence evaporate before the strident struggles of his naive style.

Clarity and discontinuous decoration are compounded of bruised or muddied colors, surrounded by a heavy handed line. Busy patterns, abrupt compositional breaks, and applied lace netting surround or fragment his lumpy figures. A prime motif, an embracing couple, cavort serial style in frantic engagements from cartoon to cartoon. Their adventures are traced through Room at Arles, Lady Chatterly’s Horse, Mack and Madge, Suitable for Framing, and his best, Niceland

The variants of national banners remain “insider” objects, not unlike the flags a clever yachtsman might fly at the cocktail hour.

The nude, gesturing ladies, smirkingly coy and abundantly hideous, whose portraits make up half the show, are truly dire presentiments. However, viewed as proto-Pop, combining primitive, dada, and surreal impulses, CPLY’s now resemble an ancestor race of women whose blood lines may be traced to the comic-strip heroines of Lichtenstein.

John Reuschel