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The Temptation of St. Anthony (Revisited) & Drawings and Paintings 1966-1991
February 15 – March 13, 2020

Nino Mier Gallery is proud to present two concurrent exhibitions of works from The Estate of William N. Copley: The Temptation of Saint Anthony (Revisited) & Drawings and Paintings 1966-1991 on view in Gallery Two and Gallery Three respectively.

American artist, curator and gallery owner, William N. Copley (1919-1996), also known by his adopted moniker CPLY (pronounced ‘see-ply’), is best-known for his slapstick narrative paintings, drawings and installations. In the late 1940s, Copley opened his briefly run, Los Angeles-based gallery where artists such as Man Ray, René Magritte, Yves Tanguy and Joseph Cornell, among others, had their West Coast debuts. After closing his gallery in the Spring of 1949 and encouraged by his friends Duchamp and Ernst, Copley focused his attention on artmaking and spent years travelling to New York and Paris. In the following decades, CPLY forged his reputation as a singular figure in the art world for his eccentric and erotic imagery that combines a Pop sensibility with Surrealism.

The Temptation of St. Anthony (Revisited) is comprised of shaped and etched acrylic mirrors that depict iconic figures and narratives from the world of CPLY. Men in bowler hats down tankards of beer in a saloon, peer around dressing screens and attempt to seduce lovers. A female nude plays a sonata on a whimsically fashioned upright piano, while in other scenes, similar characters are hauled off by the cops, or cast out of the community. Together the mirrors resemble outrageous fables, which Copley uses to direct the gaze of the viewer back on society itself. Copley created the designs for this series in 1977, working in tandem with his assistant Eddie Hemsley.

For the installation of The Temptation of St. Anthony (Revisited), the walls are painted mimicking the Copley-designed exuberant wallpaper in his signature curvilinear brushstrokes rendered in shades of ochre. The main room is then divided by a velvet, burgundy-colored curtain that evokes the intimacy of entering a boudoir. This installation was first exhibited at Brooks Jackson Gallery, New York in 1978, and later at the Kunsthalle Berne (October 1980) and Stedelijk Museum (January 1981) as part of a travelling retrospective organized by the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. More recently, another example of the present series was exhibited at the Fondazione Prada, Milan.

Drawings and Paintings 1966-1991 features a selection of works on paper and paintings spanning four decades of the artist’s career. The selection offers manifold insights into the artist’s commitment to his practice, but also wide-ranging use of materials and subject matter always with a keen sense of the contemporary. Copley’s ink and graphite works on paper revisit themes present in his paintings—animated settings that draw sharp, satirical observations on the public and private life of a white middle-class. The paintings and works on paper on view trace the development of Copley’s painterly style and his continual experiments with line, color, pattern, allegory and humor.

William N. Copley: The Temptation of St. Anthony (Revisited) and Drawings and Paintings 1966-1991 form one part of a trio of coordinated international exhibitions that will present major series of works by William N. Copley in the first part of 2020—The Ballad of William N. Copley at Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, from January 17, and The New York Years at Kasmin Gallery, New York, from March 11.