More than forty years ago CPLY began his art in Los Angeles. By blind instinct or uncommon sense, he was born artistically as a natural Surrealist. In fact, he was the last of the few genuine Surrealist articles to have emerged in America.
The work emerged at a time when there were precious few serious collectors for interesting new art of any persuasion; and worse, this work would have been an affront to any of the heavy-breathing intellectuals and critics who were then beginning to champion the New American Abstraction. CPLY solved this by running off to France.
In France his art flowered. A decidedly American sensibility cross-pollinated with an uncanny innocent deployment of French decorative patterning that his fellow Surrealists quite adored. CPLY became a painter who had so much of the instinct of a Chaplin or Buster Keaton or characters out of our comic strips, that by way of his art, a particular American flavor became part of the late Surrealist menu.
CPLY's return to America around 1962 just happened to coincide with the emergence of Pop Art. Much to his surprise and to the delight of his many admirers, CPLY could now be seen as a very real and crucial link between classical Surrealist art and the new American Pop art. The poetry of sophisticated banality and subversive narrative play had finally come to have a real and sustaining place in American culture as the 60s unfolded. CPLY had been there all along.
More recently yet, a decade ago, it's worth noting that when New York's East Village and Soho scenes burst to life with the street graffiti artist, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, et. al., one could look back once again to CPLY's zany early warnings.
From the very beginning of his art, CPLY has embraced a decorative and cartoon-like style. A thoroughly recognizable human comedy of sexual fetishism and bravado invariably pervades the work. Like a great comedian, CPLY can make us smile through the most lugubrious or unmentionable turn of events, inviting us to join the party.
[Excerpted from Springtime for CPLY by Walter Hopps]