Artist Llyn Foulkes marches to the sound of his own drum – oh heck, he is his own drum. And horn section, accordion, and cowbells, too. One of the youngest painters to ever show at Los Angeles’ historic Ferus Gallery (Warhol’s first show was there), Foulkes constantly reinvented, built up and tore down expectations of what his art should be, all the while experimenting with The Machine, his one man band setup. In tonight’s film Llyn Foulkes: One Man Band, the artist tells directors Tamar Halpern and Chris Quilty (our guests tonight, along with Los Angeles gallery owner/art world insider Mat Gleason):
I feel I am one man band in art and in music.
Foulkes’ relationship with Ferus was severed when he admitted he didn’t care for a fellow Ferus artist’s paintings. As his own landscapes grew in popularity, he grew disenchanted with having to paint essentially the same image, and from photographs. He shifted radically to exploded heads, then again to more political art. His work in the 1960 and 70s, often featuring Mickey Mouse as a symbol of the decay of America, defying classification.
Halpern and Quilty filmed Foulkes over a seven year period as he works on two huge paintings, one of which he admits helped bring about the end of his second marriage. As deadlines for major shows approach, Foulkes admits:
I’m never really done with a painting they just take it away from me.
His monumental Lost Frontier is “taken away” to a gallery show in New York, which Foulkes feels is failure. Another show at the Hammer Museum “takes away” The Bedroom to a exhibition which revitalizes the 77-year old artist.
A talented, driven perfectionist with a self-destructive streak (along with The Machine and his band, The Rubber Band, Llyn hired to fill in for Doc Severinsen for a week, Llyn got into a fight with his female singer, firing her after the first show, ending the gig). Foulkes is captured by the filmmakers in revealing monologues, and interviews with his wives and children, collectors (including Dennis Hopper), curators, and fellow artists, giving us a portrait of one of the most sublime modern American painters whose focus on social issues mirrors his own search for self-awareness and inner peace as he strives for recognition.