William Nelson Copley - July 5 (Great Day Coming)
William Nelson Copley
July 5 (Great Day Coming)
Acrylic collaged with firecrackers on canvas. 166 x 133 cm. framed under glass. Monogrammed and dated 'cply 75' verso on canvas. - Traces of studio and minor traces of age.
A photograph unites René Magritte, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and Man Ray at the inauguration of the Copley exhibition in 1966 at Stedeljk Museum in Amsterdam presenting the exhibition catalogue! Four great personalities of Surrealism, Francis Picabia was missing, met here in order to congratulate their important “pupils”. It was the interest in Surrealism - 'Surrealism made everything clearer' - and particularly in the work of these artists that soon made Copley become a painting day-analyst with the help of those great role models. Copley developed his world of images with a good helping of naivety and a well-trained eye for the subversive. This world is open to a little Picabia, some Ernst, a bit of Magritte, whereby Copley, is not concerned with imitation but with their secret phantasies accompanying his targeted, occasionally grotesque rendering of the everyday world. Of course it is the all-too-human topics of the day, such as the omnipresent struggle of the sexes, the constantly present feeling of eroticism, the meaningful details and the political discourse which Copley captures in bold flowing contours with graphic shorthand and immerses in an outstanding, sometimes exuberant palette of colours. 'Copley's work is a single pictorial homage to the moving powers of Eros, if you like' (Carl Haenlein, Copley's Franco-American connection, in: Carl Haenlein (ed.), William N. Copley, Bilder, Paintings 1951-1995, exhib.cat. Kestner-Gesellschaft Hannover, Hanover 1995, p.8).
His new career begins with the opening of his gallery in Beverly Hills in 1947. He deals with works by the aforementioned surrealists and becomes his own best client. He gives up being a gallery owner, begins to paint and develops that popular, comic-like narrative style as an autodidact. In 1963, Copley moves into a studio in the New York West End and together with Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Wesselmann and Jim Dine advances to one of the early representatives of american Pop Art. His view of the course of life is sometimes enriched by the daily events, which he transfers into bizarre pictures. Copley's paintings with the oversized lettering JULY 5 and the affixed fireworks can have various reasons, as does, for example, a Date Painting by On Kawara. Far-reaching speculations also point to a big event in the tennis world: as the first African American, Arthur Ashe wins Wimbledon against Jimmy Connors on 5th July 1975. Copley's Great Day Coming describes a moving event in American history. But everything can also have a completely different significance, namely... Mauna Loa, the volcano on Hawaii, erupted again on that day for the first time in 25 years... with Copley's cryptic humour you can never be sure.
The present work is registered in the William N. Copley Estate, New York.
Iolas Gallery - Brooks Jackson, Inc., New York (label verso); private collection, Germany
Germano Celant (ed.), William N. Copley, exhib.cat. Fondazione Prada i.a., Milan 2016, cat.no.439, p.216 with colour illus.
Hanover 1995 (Kestner-Gesellschaft), William N. Copley, Bilder, Paintings 1951-1995, exhib.cat.no.52, n. pag. with colour illus. (titled there)