(LISTEN to John Rabe's interviews conducted at the Hammer Museum opening for Llyn Foulkes Saturday, February 2, 2012, including Hammer director Ann Philbin, art fan Andy Schwartz, and artist Llyn Foulkes.)
Talking with art fan Andy Schwartz at the Hammer Museum Saturday night, I said I'd never seen anything quite like Llyn Foulkes' work. "No, you haven't," Andy agreed. "That's why he's always been the outsider in the art world. Nobody's ever figured quite where he fits."
Llyn Foulkes is 78, and lives and works in LA. He went to Chouinard Art Institute and started showing his work at the famed Ferus Gallery in 1959. He exhibited at the late-great Pasadena Art Museum, and LACMA bought one of his pieces in 1964. He was in Paul Shimmel's groundbreaking exhibit Helter Skelter at MOCA in 1992. His works are often unsettling, either in an overt way (bloodied, mutilated heads) or in a way that you can't put your finger on: Schwartz says Foulkes' huge paintings of rocks are "leathery, visceral, alive. " He attacks corporations, and pays tribute to veterans. But he's never achieved the worldwide fame his supporters believe he deserves.
Hammer director Ann Philbin told Off-Ramp Foulkes says he's "been discovered about a dozen times, but this time we're gong to make it stick" with a 150-work career Foulkes retrospective, titled simply "Llyn Foulkes," at the Hammer through May 19. Then, the exhibit travels to New York and Germany.
The exhibit includes early drawings, cartoons, and notebooks; paintings in which Foulkes covers heads with paint and often mutilates them; the huge paintings of huge rocks from the 60s and 70s; the attacks on corporate America; and will even feature Foulkes' one-man-band.
What does Foulkes think of the Hammer show? "I'm very happy now, once I saw it all toether. There's stuff in there I haven't seen for 50 years. When I started looking at it all together, I thought, 'Oh, I've got some pretty good stuff!'"