» Los Angeles – Llyn Foulkes: “Bombs Away” at Gagosian Through February 25th, 2023

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Llyn Foulkes, Birthington (2022), via Gagosian

On view currently at Gagosian’s Beverly Hills exhibition space, artist Llyn Foulkes brings a body of works that continues his wry, expressive and often caustic sense of humor. Highly diverse, tough to categorize, and often wickedly confrontational, Foulkes’s landscape and portrait paintings, mixed-media constructions, and narrative tableaux are presented as a continuation and expansion of his ongoing challenges and critiques of the American mass-media landscape.

Llyn Foulkes, Family Portrait (2022), via Gagosian
Llyn Foulkes, Family Portrait (2022), via Gagosian

Having progressed from the unsettling imagery of his early 1960s paintings, through the geological and postcard subjects of his late ’60s and early ’70s work, to the “bloody head” series of figures from later that decade, the artist also became known for singular combinations of painting with wood, found clothing, and upholstery fabric. Foulkes’s mordant social commentary has consistently targeted human cruelty and challenged the excesses of corporate America—particularly the Walt Disney Company. This continues in the current show, with the artist once again sharpening his blade against the corporate behemoth. In Family Portrait (2022), the artist has replaced the heads of a couple and baby in a formal photograph with black-and-white visages of an ossified Mickey Mouse. The image is set against a chalkboard covered with half-erased messages about the financial worth of children. The cartoon rodent also crops up in Implantation (2019–21) and Untitled: Baby Mickey (2020). In the former, he appears in the form of a classic round-eared hat, on the face of a wristwatch, and as the graphic on a “face mask required” sign. The title, inscribed beneath the image, refers to the moment when a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining, an allusion to the beginning of life that here allegorizes commercial indoctrination. In the latter work, the familiar silhouette of Mickey’s head masks that of a baby in an ornate vintage gown, wholly erasing its identity.

Llyn Foulkes, Implantation (2019-2021), via Gagosian
Llyn Foulkes, Implantation (2019-2021), via Gagosian

Llyn Foulkes, Induction (2022), via Gagosian
Llyn Foulkes, Induction (2022), via Gagosian

Whatever their medium and format, Foulkes’s works are characterized by their provocative subjects and unexpected formal juxtapositions. In the sculpture The Broken Chain (2020), a lion, standing on an antique-style library card catalogue, bites into a bald eagle in flight, while a nude mannequin looks on. Le Bomb (2020), another jarring assemblage of found objects, features the titular weapon projecting from a gnarled tree trunk. Ivanka (2022) incorporates fragments of animal hide and jawbone into a brutally unflattering portrait of Donald Trump’s eldest daughter and former senior adviser, while Surrender (2022) tackles the war in Ukraine, picturing a sickle-wielding figure blindfolded by the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag.

Caustic and cutting, the artist’s work here turns an already expressive and engaged hand towards the modern era. It closes February 25th.

– D. Creahan

Read more:
Bombs Away [Exhibition Site]

on Thursday, February 23rd, 2023 at 12:00 pm and is filed under Art News, Featured Post, Show.
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