Llyn Foulkes (b. 1934)
Who's On Third?
oil on board mounted on masonite
47¾ x 38½ in. (121.2 x 97.8 cm.)
Painted in 1971-1973.
Galerie Darthea Speyer, Paris
John Jones Collection, Chicago
Acquired from the above by the present owner
M. Duncan, "A Better Mouse Trap", Art In America, January 1997, p. 84 (illustrated).
M. Finch, "Between the Rocks and a Hard Place", Tate Etc., Issue 25, Summer 2012, p. 92 (illustrated).
T. Harnish, "Llyn Foulkes Retrospective at the Hammer Museum: 'It's Like Intensive Therapy without a Therapist'", Huffington Post, 30 January 2013 (illustrated).
C. Knight, "Art Review: Retrospective Shows Llyn Foulkes' Sharp Eccentricity", Los Angeles Times, 7 February 2013 (illustrated).
K. Johnson, "For American Heroes, a Poke in the Eye: Llyn Foulkes Retrospective Opens at the New Museum", New York Times, 20 June 2013.
A. Budick, "Llyn Foulkes, New Museum, New York: This Dazzlingly Weird Retrospective Celebrates the Work of a Truly Eccentric Artist", Financial Times, 28 June 2013 (illustrated).
Laguna Art Museum; Cincinnati, The Contemporary Art Center; The Oakland Museum, Purchase, Neuberger Museum and Palm Springs Desert Museum, Llyn Foulkes: Between A Rock and A Hard Place, October 1995-March 1998, pp. 51 and 88 (illustrated).
Los Angeles, Hammer Museum; New York, New Museum and Museum Kurhaus Kleve, Llyn Foulkes, February 2013-March 2014, pp. 71 and 190 (illustrated).

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Joshua Friedman
Joshua Friedman

Lot Essay

Llyn Foulkes has worked consistently to challenge audiences and expand his artistic practice into new territories. He states, "Art should take some kind of stand," ("Llyn Foulkes," Art Ltd. Magazine, March 2013, p. 2), and Foulkes positions himself on the fringe of the great oligarchical systems that overlay American life: from subverting Manifest Destiny through Western landscape to using the Disney icon of Mickey Mouse as a way to expose the "brainwashing" capacity of corporate America. Throughout his oeuvre he employs both material and technique to keep this critique razor sharp and visceral.

Who's on Third, 1971-1973 inaugurated Foulkes' famous and critically acclaimed Bloody Head series of the 1970s and provided a leitmotif to express his dystopian vision of our fractured society in later decades. The inspiration for this work apparently came from seeing an autopsy photo where the scalp of the deceased man hung over his face. Reminding him of Moe from the Three Stooges, the impulse for humor fell in stark relief against the knowledge of what the photo depicted. This paradox proved fertile ground for visual exploration. In the present work, a restrained and deliberately painted portrait of a man in profile is juxtaposed with streams of bright red paint obscuring the face like a bad, mop-top haircut and pooling at the starched button-down collar. The face is further obscured by an indeterminate form painted with his "rag technique," made famous for giving the marbling affect in his Rock paintings of the 1960s. Reminiscent of the obscured faces of Rene Magritte's uncanny self- portraits, Magritte's clouds are replaced by a stark cyan background that places the figure insistently in the realm of the viewer, rather than safely in some "other place." Each section of the painting is rendered using a different technique as if they are independent objects living in oppositional proximity. Fellow Los Angeles artist Joe Biel says of Foulkes, "He has a really complex set of contradictions of emotions in the work.And that's how real life works," ("Llyn Foulkes," Art Ltd. Magazine, March 2013, p. 4). The use of different painting techniques in the work results in a visual complexity that mirrors the emotional complexity of the work; at once humorous and horrific, condemning and sympathizing. These paradoxes are, for Foulkes, the essence of life.

Foulkes' career has maintained a category-defying and boundary-pushing trajectory. He moved to Los Angeles in 1957 to attend the Chouinard Institute. After dropping out, he was included in a group exhibition at Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles in 1959, where he later had his first solo exhibition in 1961. Shortly after, his first solo museum exhibition was held at the Pasadena Museum of Art in 1962. Foulkes has been included in many important group exhibitions, he was featured in Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 1992, and his first retrospective was held in 1995 at the Laguna Art Museum (traveled to Cincinnati, Oakland, and Palm Springs). More recently, his paintings were included in the 2011 Venice Biennale and Documenta 13, 2012, where he also performed in his one-man band, Machine. 2013 saw another comprehensive retrospective of his work at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (traveled to the New Museum, New York and Museum Kurhaus Kleve).

"He is one of the most significant and influential artists of his generation He has been there for every significant moment in LA art history since the early '60s," (A. Subotnick, "Llyn Foulkes," Art Ltd. Magazine, March 2013, p. 4). Who's on Third, represents a turning point in Foulkes' career wherein the complexity of content is expressed through a complexity of material and technique. His art makes an oligarchical statement and his position on the edge has proved an influential critique of both art and society.

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