new-york

William Copley

Phyllis Kind Gallery

Through 1980 and ’81, a retrospective of William Copley’s paintings bounced from the Kunsthalle in Bern to the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris to the Stedelijk in Eindhoven. It was a prestigious circuit, especially for an American artist who has yet to have an institutional show in his own country. It’s not hard to understand the reason for Copley’s neglect at the hands of American curators—the work is simply too naughty, a quality not sought after by public trusts. (I can’t think of one naughty painting in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, but there are several in the Barnes collection in Philadelphia.) Naughty art in America has always been a private affair, something best appreciated over brandy in air redolent with cigar smoke. Naughty art is also, in the eyes of what H. L. Mencken termed the Boobus Americanus, the very cornerstone of French culture. Being myself a righteous Boobus

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the May 1982 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.