October 13, 2013


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Lot 465: Llyn Foulkes

Lot 465: Llyn Foulkes


Oil and collage on photograph in artist's frame
Retains facsimile of David Stuart Galleries label verso
Image (vis.): 3.5" x 3.625"; Frame: 7" x 7"
LAMA would like to thank the artist for his assistance in cataloguing this work
Provenance: David Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, California;
Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the above)
Exhibited: "Llyn Foulkes," David Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, 1974
Estimate: $5,000 - $7,000
Price Realized: $11,875
Inventory Id: 8503

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Los Angeles artist and musician Llyn Foulkes (b. 1934) creates paintings, installations, and tableaux of biting social commentary, often utilizing a concoction of pop icons, American landscapes, and violent imagery. Foulkes was born in a small farming town in Washington State where he idolized Salvador Dali, the musician Spike Jones, and comedian Charlie Chaplin. After serving in the Korean War, Foulkes moved to Los Angeles to attend the Chouinard Art Institute and had his first exhibition at Ferus Gallery in 1959. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, his work ranged from melancholy assemblages and skillful American landscapes to his "bloody head" portraits. During this period, in addition to amassing international awards including the 1967 Prize for Painting at the Paris Biennale, Foulkes played drums in the bands City Lights and The Rubber Band, culminating in 1979 with his Machine, a one-man band constructed of car horns and percussion instruments, influenced by Stan Kenton, Gene Krupa, and Lionel Hampton. He continues to perform on the Machine to this day.

The Hammer Museum recently exhibited Foulkes' 50-year retrospective, "LLYN FOULKES," which highlighted some of his most recent "narrative tableaux that combine painting with woodworking, found materials, and thick mounds of mixed media, seamlessly blended into the painted surface to create a remarkable illusion of depth." Some taking years to complete, these tableaux tell a story of corporate America's hijacking of art and creativity. The materials and subject matter refer back to some of Foulkes' earliest paintings, The Flag (1962) and The Leg (1963), both of which incorporate lacquer and found text to create a shimmering symbology of letters, numbers, and ubiquitous symbols such as a cross. Foulkes' work resides in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Norton Simon Museum.

"LLYN FOULKES." Hammer Exhibitions. Hammer Museum, 2013. Web. 7 Aug. 2013.

Interview with Llyn Foulkes – August 28, 2013

Paul Des Marais: I want to hear about your progression throughout the 60s. For The Flag, what was your inspiration? You use a variety of non-traditional materials such as lacquer and tar.

Llyn Foulkes: Stephan von Huene, he was a year and a half ahead of me at Chouinard. I know Stephan von Huene's is similar to this flag. Stephan von Huene started using tar. I don't know how I got to lacquer but it was very quick. I used oil paint and I started mixing the tar with the paint. I mean it looks great, it held up really well.

PD: How about the numbers and letters that are edited out in The Flag?

LF: It depends. I would put letters on things and some would make words. People have been putting letters and numbers on their works. It wasn't something I made up. We are all products of what is around us. I don't think I'm original in a certain way; maybe it's original if you put certain things together that influence you. There is a reason I did that. Had to do with school stuff you learn, ABCDEFG, 1234567. I had paintings called Summer School [1962] and School Days.

PD: Was this a negative feeling toward school?

LF: You'd have to figure that one out [laughs].

PD: Suddenly 10 years later you move back to two-dimensional. In Barbara, you use light blue, pink, more color. Like your more recent works?

LF: Right, exactly. I started using color.

PD: Taking a portrait and removing the head or distorting the head?

LF: [Laughs] Well I should take photographs of cartoons I have from the 60s. I was doing that, taking things with a body with the head off. I would cut off photos or drawings. It's always been a part of me and it just came out like that. Product of what you've learned. I never thought about it at the time. It is much different now, when I paint a lot of things I do, I think about it more. That's the neat thing about it before, certain things have a presence that is female, a safety pin, and becomes some sort of statement about women.

PD: Why did you move away from this black and white color palette?

LF: All early paintings were monochromatic. In the 60s I used stripes and colors, but a lot of landscapes and postcards were monochromatic. The blue happens with Who's on Third [1971-73]; all of a sudden it just worked. I didn't think about it.

PD: Did it open a whole new spectrum for you?

LF: Not really, I just like putting one color on there. Or a cloud or something that designates it as something else. Makes me concentrate, makes me feel like something that is more out there even though it is right here. I first started doing the, what do you call it? Return Here [1959]. That had the stuff on the top of it, pictures. That's kind of a combo of Jasper Johns' target and Kienholz. I saw this stuff. Would I have done that if I wouldn't have seen it?