New York

John Coplans

Hasn’t every artist, at some time or another, uttered the undying cliché, “In a way, my work”—whatever its ostensible subject—“is always a kind of self-portrait”? This retrospective of John Coplans’ photographs is indeed called “A Self Portrait.” And yet, while the pictures take their maker’s own body as their exclusive subject, I believe Coplans has earned the right to say, should he wish to, that his work couldn’t be further from self-portraiture. In part this has to do with his refusal of the genre’s primary convention: recording, it seems, every inch of his aging flesh, Coplans has rigorously omitted his face, the one portion of the body that is the sine qua non of a traditional understanding of the portrait.

I don’t think this has anything to do with an earnest effort to show, for instance, how the indicia of personal identity may be disseminated across the body rather than concentrated

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