For this exhibition, we are privileged to be able to present works solely from the Juan Yarur collection. Combining photographs and collages, the works span over three decades. Central to all of the works is Copello himself – whether capturing previous performance pieces in the elaborate collages or using himself as the subject. He embodied the concept of what he described as ‘living art’. Within the depictions, the artist explores a multitude of complex issues, ranging from sexual ambiguity and identity, to national identity. While some close-up self portraits are immediately reminiscent of Duchamp’s ‘Rrose Sélavy’, others have a more political agenda. The series of black and white photographs of the artist dancing with the Chilean flag are haunting images that remind the viewer of the artist’s exile from his homeland.
Copello spent much of his working life in both Italy and the United States and it was here that he developed his unique, flamboyant style of self-expression and performance. After studying at the Academia di Belli Arti, Florence, he left for New York to complete his printmaking studies at the Pratt Graphic Center. In 1969, with the help of Fernando Torm-Toha, Copello founded the alternative New York Art workshop, ‘Studio F.’ / ‘Taller 69’. There they experimented with printmaking, collage, modern music and body-art. As well as printing all his own work, Copello printed works for key artists of the era – Rainer Fetting, David Hockney, Keith Haring and others. He was friends with Andy Warhol, came into contact with The Factory, and was part of the underground club scene. It was during this period that he developed his performative style. There he became a leading influence upon avant-garde art and visual performances.
In 1986 Copello accepted a founding role in the formation of the American Mime Theatre of New York (under Paul Curtis). Copello was later to bring this back to his home country in 1996 when he taught Body Art and Body Expressionism at the University of Chile. He became a deeply influential figure to future generations of Chilean artists, such as Carlos Leppe. When he later left to return to Italy, much of his performative work was a reaction to the social and political turmoil that Chile was facing at that time. Francisco Copello died in Santiago, Chile in 2006.