A Woman Defined

Art & Culture by Mahvash Mossaed

Llyn Foulkes at the Hammer Museum

February 18, 2013

Are you afraid of Llyn Foulkes? You might be if you are afraid of darkness, you might be if you are afraid of pain, you might be if you are afraid of the truth and the fact is that sometimes truth is hiding behind darkness and pain.

I went to see the Llyn Foulkes exhibition at the Hammer Museum, and I just loved it. It definitely pierced my soul. Looking at his work, I felt that his imagery was so sacred that I was not even sure if I felt comfortable for those around me who were viewing the exhibition and expressing their opinion on it. His work is not calculated, polite, or formal, and it is not meant to necessarily try to please the viewer. I felt that Foulkes is so exposed in his paintings that it actually puts him in a vulnerable position to the possibility of other people’s lack of depth, lack of understanding, or lack of having enough courage to look at a dark, huge, scary monster in the eyes. I was thinking to myself, “What if Llyn Foulkes is misunderstood?” After all, he is showing us society and the human psyche’s shadow in a manner that is bitter, concentrated, and not sweetened at all. Can we take  man and his world unmasked?

llyn-foulkes-kill-mickeyLlyn Foulkes’s art is made with found recycled objects. His works are effortless, as though he had no other option but to paint it the way he did, not being self conscious; probably not even caring if his work has anybody’s approval or not.  While creating, he was only expressing something in him that had to be said aloud in any possible way he could. Walking around the room viewing some of his 150 works – mostly self portraits, some of his family, some of  famous people, but all done in a raw and brute style – I thought about how when flipping through the LA Times paper, I came across an article reviewing his art. I had come across other articles about his exhibition and his work in other places in the media, but every time, I had refused to read anything critically written about him. For myself, I have already made up my mind and have given him and his work a very special place in my mind, so sacred and special that it is permanently untouchable.

See the Llyn Foulkes exhibition at Hammer Museum, Febuary 3 – May 19, 2013
About Llyn Foulkes and the Exhibition
(excerpt from the Hammer Museum)
The Hammer Museum presents an extensive career retrospective devoted to the work of the groundbreaking painter and musician Llyn Foulkes (b. 1934 in Yakima, Washington), on view from February 3 to May 19, 2013. One of the most influential yet under recognized artists of his generation, Foulkes makes work that stands out for its raw, immediate, and unfiltered qualities. His extraordinarily diverse body of work—including impeccably painted landscapes, mixed-media constructions, deeply disturbing portraits, and narrative tableaux—resists categorization and defies expectations, distinguishing Foulkes as a truly singular artist. LLYN FOULKES is organized by Hammer curator Ali Subotnick and will feature approximately 150 artworks from public and private collections in the U.S. and Europe, some of which have not been seen for decades. The exhibition will explore the entire scope of the artist’s career, including early cartoons and drawings, his macabre, emotionally-charged paintings of the early 1960s; his epic rock and postcard paintings of the late 1960s and early 1970s; his “bloody head” series of mutilated figures from the late 1970s through the present; his social commentary paintings targeting corporate America (especially Disney), which include his remarkable 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. The show will also feature a video of Foulkes playing his Machine, a one-man instrument consisting of horns, bass, organ pipes, percussion and more. LLYN FOULKES will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue including essays by novelist and art critic Jim Lewis, writer Jason Weiss, and curator Ali Subotnick.
Photos by Mahvash Mossaed

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