JUNE CRESPO + JOHN COPLANS
curated by João Laia
foreign bodies establishes a dialogue between the work of June Crespo and John Coplans in order to analyse contemporary material and visual cultures. The artists’ shared interest in the friction between individual and collective social dynamics finds a core theme in their analysis of the body and its representation. The exhibition proposes a contaminated webbed space of echoes and flows that underlines the emotional and haptic layers of our identity, commenting on our everyday engagement with a highly mediated environment.
June Crespo (1982) has recently completed a two-year residency at De Ateliers in Amsterdam (2015-17). Having lived, studied and worked in the city of Bilbao for most of her life, the artist is part of the region’s sculptural tradition, known for its horizontal collaborative dynamic linking different generations. Figures such as Ángel Bados and Txomin Badiola, Crespo’s teacher at the school of fine arts, belong to this tradition. While also employing methods found in the Basque country’s sculptural context, like the serial reproduction of shapes and objects, Crespo’s careful analysis of the body is a paradigmatic case. The artist’s practice projects a sensual investigation of contemporary representational regimes, based on a corporeal exploration of the world. Her interest in the hybrid conditions of the body-object and the frameworks through which it circulates is translated by an affect-led approach to reality and employs poor materials like concrete, metal and fabric. While the work incorporates personal stories and events, by and large it bypasses narrative strategies, opening up different avenues of interpretation while formulating a powerful commentary about dominant representational regimes.
Born in the uk and having spent several periods during childhood in South Africa, John Coplans (1920–2003) relocated to the usa in 1960. His early painting reflected the influence of Tachisme and Abstract Expressionism. Deeming his practice derivative, and feeling conflicted about his dual position as an artist and critic, Coplans abandoned artistic practice to fully embrace art writing. He was one of the founders of Artforum and worked for the magazine from 1962 until 1977 (acting as editor-in-chief since 1972). In 1978 John Coplans shot his first photograph. As a former art critic, Coplans was surely aware of the loose group known as the Pictures Generation, which included artists such as Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince. Unlike this group, however, Coplans did not employ montage or appropriation as preferred methods, and instead developed a strict modus operandi that included using Polaroid black and white film to capture exclusively his naked headless body. His images question popular culture’s crystallised take on masculinity, constituting counter-monuments that celebrate decay and vulnerability.
Combining familiarity and alienation, the practices of the two artists address a number of questions that convey a sense of our contemporary condition. The fragmented presences projected by their work echo the on-going disintegration and reconfiguration of bodies and matter while flowing in the current digital regime, reflecting the queer plasticity of contemporary identities. Questioning homogeneous and dominant approaches to the corporeal and the symbolical, this exhibition proposes dissident portraits whose porous universes reflect our decentred position in an unknown world in flux.