Llyn Foulkes – how it all began

Artists / Collector / History / Research
Llyn Folkes - Whos on Third

‘Who’s on Third’, 1971-1973, Oil on canvas. 48 x 39 in. / 121.9 x 99.1 cm. John Jones Collection. Exhibition at Museum Kurhaus Kleve

Llyn Foulkes exhibitions in 2013 and 2014

The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, organized an extensive career retrospective devoted to the work of the groundbreaking painter, performance artist and musician Llyn Foulkes (*1934 in Yakima, Washington), curated by Ali Subotnick.*
After Los Angeles, February 3 — May 19, 2013 the exhibition was shown in New York, New Museum, June 12 – September 1, 2013, and Kleve (Germany), Museum Kurhaus Kleve, December 6, 2013 – March 2, 2014.

The American artist Llyn Foulkes is one of the most noteworthy discoveries of 2012 documenta XIII (Curaotr Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev). As the first museum in Europe, the Museum Kurhaus Kleve is showing a comprehensive retrospective of his work with about 100 works from the early 1960s to the present.

How it all began

Through our research for renowned Ferus Gallery (1957 – 1966) we could understand through an interview given by Llyn Foulkes how it all began and how Llyn Foulkes was received in the late 50s and early 60s.
The interview by Paul Karlstrom for the Archives of American Art was conducted 1997 June 25 – 1998 December 2.
Here are some sequences which caught our attention.
… that is to say: It wasn’t a walk in the park.

The interview begins with a discussion of Foulkes’ move to downtown Los Angeles and “The Brewery” [“The Brewery” was formerly a working brewery that has been transformed into living/studio space for artists] from Topanga. There follows, beside many other aspects of his life, a lengthy discussion of the Ferus Gallery, Walter Hopps, Maurice Tuchman, Henry Hopkins, Rolf Nelson, John Coplans, and Christopher Knight. He also discusses Los Angeles as the center of popular art and culture. He reflects on his kinship with Wallace Berman and the spirituality they shared; his isolation as an outsider; his regrets about not responding to others (including Berman and George Herms), seeing it as a lost opportunity to participate more fully in the local art world and cultivating supportive relationships.

Llyn Foulkes had a solo show in August 1961 at Ferus Gallery. The interview reveals how difficult it was for the artists to exhibit their work in a show, and to be seen by the public. After Walter Hopps has left Ferus Gallery to become curator at the Pasadena Art Museum, Hopps inherits the already in 1961 by Thomas Leavitt planned solo show for Llyn Foulkes to open in September 1962. His show was competing with another important show, organized by Walter Hopps, entitled ‘New Realism’ [‘New Painting of Common Objects’, generally regarded as the first Pop exhibition in a museum], featuring Jim Dine, Robert Dowd, Joe Goode, Phillip Hefferton, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, Wayne Thiebaud, and Andy Warhol. Hopps was promoting this show extensively, but not so the much bigger show by Llyn Foulkes as he describes in his interview: “Hopps did market the concurrent group show with ‘Pop Art on the West Coast’. So he has his first show [at Pasadena Art Museum] and he’s making this big poster. I remember at the time he’s doing this big poster. It’s gigantic, all in color and they didn’t do a lot of color stuff at that time. It was big and in color. It was going to be expensive, and I wanted to see what they’re doing with my poster for the Pasadena Art Museum. Well, he said they couldn’t afford to do mine, even though my show was much bigger. He couldn’t afford to do mine because he was pushing himself. He was going to do this big, gigantic color poster on Pop Art. … because he wanted to be established with something new that was happening. Mine was too separate ”
He made his next difficult experience one year later in October 1963 on occasion of the groundbreaking Marcel Duchamp show at the Pasadena Art Museum. Llyn Foulkes’ comment: “I walked around the Duchamp show and I thought to myself, ‘My stuff’s better than that.’ There wasn’t anything in the Duchamp show that really grabbed me. The next thing I know, Walter Hopps is playing chess with Duchamp and the cameras are around and this is all part of this marketing thing, connecting himself to Duchamp.

Llyn Foulkes: “I wasn’t promoting myself. I wasn’t marketing myself, and neither were they. I just happened to fall into the thing in an odd sort of way. When I had my first show at Ferus Gallery, I didn’t even get a review, even though they had the blackboard and chair in it, I didn’t even get a review, and it was at the worst time of the year, in August. Now we’re hopping into this, and I had already submitted my stuff to the Pasadena Art Museum [for the solo show in September 1962] and the Pasadena Art Museum, at that time, was Leavitt, I believe.”

Later in the interview, Llyn Foulkes speaks about another experience with the art market, he had: “Then he [Larry Gagosian] thought he could make more money with more expensive posters, and then it got into a gallery. I think it was called The Broxton Gallery or something. Is that what it was called? In fact, I even lent him a painting for his gallery. He was trying to get me in at the time. I never got it back, ever got it back, and all of a sudden, this guy is defining what contemporary art is, and museums are listening to the guy. Museum people who graduated in art history and whose whole thing has been about art history are listening to this guy who sold poster art. I said, “What does that say?”
Paul Karlstrom: Well, it’s a business. It’s merchandising and promotion.
Llyn Foulkes: I thought art was supposed to be above that sort of thing.
In the light of Larry Gogosian’s success today he couldn’t have been this wrong.

* The Llyn Foulkes exhibition in 2013 and 2014 was made possible by major gifts from Susan Steinhauser and Daniel Greenberg / The Greenberg Foundation in honor of Mickey Gribin; Kayne Foundation – Maggie Kayne; and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

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