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William N. Copley, Lost Innocence, 1965, acrylic on canvas, 37 × 45".

William N. Copley

The Menil Collection

William N. Copley, Lost Innocence, 1965, acrylic on canvas, 37 × 45".

Over the course of his lifetime, the wayward yet prolific William N. Copley occupied three positions in the art world: those of collector, patron, and artist. “The World According to CPLY,” the first American survey of his work, considers each role in a sprawling exhibition that displays works that were formerly part of Copley’s personal collection alongside his own profuse output of paintings and the periodical editions he funded and published. Presented together, they reconstruct a worldview that is as dark as it is candied, as deadpan as it is expressive, and as infuriating as it is endearing. Abandoned as an infant on the steps of the New York Foundling Hospital in 1919, Copley was adopted by a politician and newspaper magnate and reared in luxury. Shortly after moving to Los Angeles in 1945, the budding collector was introduced to Surrealism, and within months he had tracked

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