John Coplans

Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

By turning his attention from his body to his hands in his “Hands: Self Portraits” series, 1986–88, John Coplans shifts the emphasis of his photographs away from the documentary and toward the symbolic. In an earlier series, “A Body of Work,” 1984–87, Coplans relied on the theatrical meanings of poses, but it was the physical facts of his body that made those photographs so striking—the wrinkled, hairy skin, worked by time like a palimpsest; the sagging torso, comically contrasted with the heroic poses Coplans would strike. In narrowing his focus to his hands, he has given up the autobiographical quality that the motif of the body allows. In general, hands are more toollike, less personal, than torsos; as a result, it’s harder for a viewer to experience the sort of vicarious identification with these recent pictures that he or she might have felt with the earlier self-portraits. Instead,

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