Since the 1970s, the human form has played a starring role in paintings by artist Llyn Foulkes. Tucked within rocky landscapes, dappled in blood-red stains, or adding cartoonish overtones to otherwise emotionally charged scenes, Foulkes’ figures animate his assembled canvases in a range of alluring, disturbing and moving ways. Transfiguration, an exhibition of new works at Sprüth Magers, Berlin, illustrates the artist’s flair for transforming materials and giving life to characters past and present.
Foulkes’ recent paintings incorporate his usual artistic paraphernalia, including paint, wood, photographs and numerous found objects. Yet he has also added new techniques to his repertoire. In several portraits on view, glamorous black-and-white movie headshots, which Foulkes sourced from flea markets and shops around Los Angeles, are layered atop one another. The artist has burned holes into their faces so that those of other long-lost actors show throw, digging back through time to reveal forgotten lives and aspirations. In two larger works, more familiar figures take center stage: He’ll Always Be Here depicts the artist and his recurring nemesis, Mickey Mouse, who materializes from the wood grain above him like a hovering storm cloud. In The Wall, Foulkes’ latest declaration against the current President of the United States, an open-mouthed Trump has tumbled from a brick façade like a pitiful Humpty Dumpty figure. Presented in Berlin, this work poignantly recalls German history and the social and psychological damage that border walls inflict.
Llyn Foulkes (*1934, Yakima, Washington, USA) lives and works in Los Angeles. In 2013-14, the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, organized a major retrospective that traveled to the New Museum, New York, and Museum Kurhaus Kleve. Other solo exhibitions include a mid-career retrospective in 1995 organized by the Laguna Art Museum, California, that traveled extensively in the United States. Recent major international exhibitions include Documenta 13 (2012) and the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), as well as group exhibitions at Fondazione Prada, Milan (2015); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2015); J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2011); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2011); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2010); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2008); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2007); and Centre Pompidou, Paris (2006).