All of John Coplans' various size Self Portrait photographs, including the largest, (now on exhibition at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center until March 29, 1998) began their existence as four by five inch black and white Polaroid images. The Positive/Negative Polaroid system, the amazing invention by Dr. Edwin Land in 1947, of a virtually instant development of a black and white print with a superb back-up negative for enlargement, is at the very heart of Coplans' imagery. The technique permits him to quickly see and change a pose and to immediately compare any changes he makes with earlier images. Thus this speedy delivery of a positive image permits him a greater opportunity to control the drawing in his images.
For this exhibition there will be thirty or more images, the majority dating from 1984/1985. Some images directly correspond to realized works (some of the most famous images), while others are referential variations of unexplored arenas. Many of the Polaroids are presented in series, openly revealing Coplans' process of visual thinking.
These Polaroids reflect an innately beautiful delicacy of surface and light, one quite different from Coplans' tough enlargements that throw into relief the contours of edges. Sarah Boxer in the New York Times of October 31st called the mammoth photographs on exhibition at P.S. 1 breathtaking. In comparison these smaller Polaroid images have an intimate and jewel-like quality.