John Coplans

American, born England
(London, England, 1920 - 2003, New York, New York)
John Coplans had a varied career as an artist, publisher, and curator.  He was educated at boarding schools in both England and South Africa. Coplans joined the British Armed Forces and served in Ethiopia and Burma throughout World War II.  In 1960 he immigrated to the United States and settled in San Francisco. Coplans began teaching at the University of California at Berkley in the early 1960s. In 1962 he co-founded Artforum magazine and was the editor-in chief from 1972 to 1977. He published numerous books and articles of art criticism throughout his career. Coplans worked as a curator at the Pasadena Art Museum from 1967-1970 and also as the Director of the Akron Art Museum from 1978-1980.  During this brief but influential period Coplans shaped the museum’s new collecting focus – with special emphasis on building the photography collection.  Under his guidance came significant purchases and gifts of the work of Walker Evans, John Heartfield, George Barnard, Lewis Hine and the commission of Lee Firedlander’s major photographic series depicting the industrial heartland.   In 1980 he moved to New York, where he produced his own influential photographs, unflinching self portrait studies of his aging body. Coplans received John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships in 1969 and 1985, the Frank Jewitt Mather Award of the College Art Association for services to art criticism in 1974, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in 1975, 1980, 1986, and 1992.
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Online Collection paid for with a grant from
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

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