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Quick Study: My WNYC Speed-Date with Llyn Foulkes at the New Museum UPDATED

Video screenshot of Llyn Foulkes singing and playing his wacky "machine" Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Video screenshot of Llyn Foulkes singing and playing his wacky “Machine” in concert.
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

UPDATE: My Foulkes commentary was used this morning as a news item, not as a full-fledged segment. The WNYC link to that item is here. The piece showing the dead Lone Ranger and Mickey Mouse in drag, which I referred to in this news item, is “The Last Outpost,” the second work in my slideshow, below.

Here’s the podcast for what aired.

I was a bit unprepared for the professional challenge flung at me last Wednesday, when I visited the New Museum, New York, to learn more about a veteran Los Angeles artist about whom I knew a little but not nearly enough—the chimerical Llyn Foulkes. Even the exhibition’s introductory wall text acknowledges that his work is not only “hard-to-categorize,” but also “under-recognized.”

Just before the curators’ remarks at this definitive retrospective (to Sept. 1), organized by LA’s Hammer Museum and its curator, Ali Subotnick, I happened to sit down next to the current executive producer in charge of cultural coverage at New York Public Radio (WNYC), whom I had recently contacted about the possibility of resuming some art commentary. I hadn’t yet spoken to her, let alone met her, but she recognized me and indicated she was interested in my work (which led to last Friday’s segment, where I discussed James Turrell‘s Guggenheim Museum show with fellow critic Deborah Solomon).

The next thing I knew, the producer had proposed shadowing me through “Foulkes,” microphone in hand, for my instantaneous take on what I was seeing.

That seemed a bit precipitous, considering my unfamiliarity with the full sweep of the artist’s extremely diverse, quirky work. I successfully pleaded for a temporary reprieve and got a modicum of time to peruse the galleries alone and try to arrive at some understanding of the artist’s bleak, cynical worldview and what his work meant to me. I picked out some highlights and invited the producer to record my reactions, as I walked through a second time.

If all goes according to plan, you and I can hear the results on WNYC this morning, some time between 6-9 a.m. You can listen live online, here. I’ll post a link to the podcast and embed the audio on my blog, if and when it’s available. This cultural speed-dating is not my preferred method of contemplating art, and I only hope that my haste and unpreparedness won’t be too painfully evident.

Foulkes’ unconventionally constructed work and his renegade, anti-establishment sensibility resonated with me. I was glad for the chance to encounter and engage with it. I only hope that I was reasonably coherent and didn’t flub my analysis. One thing that I never explicitly stated, but should have, is that the face popping up in many of the works (including “Pop,” his bravura diorama with his musical soundtrack) is the artist’s own.

I’m not sure which of the works that I discussed will actually make it into the broadcast. But here’s a slideshow of my own photos of pieces that I spoke about, some of which you’ll likely hear me mention later this morning:

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