Rock Art

Llyn Foulkes at the New Museum is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: Just when he hit it big with geology, the Californian turned to sociology.

("Portrait of Leo Gorcey" courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art, photo by Sheldan C. Collins; “Corporate Kiss" Courtesy San Jose Museum of Art)

Two wildly different pictures by the same artist, from Llyn Foulkes’s solo show now at the New Museum in New York. It is, as they say, the darnedest thing: Around 1969, Foulkes was painting peculiar and very interesting wall-filling images of rocks (like “Portrait of Leo Gorcey", at left here), and they were very well received – which of course led him to leave those absolutely behind, in favor of the even stranger figurative images that became his trademark, as per the 2001 picture, called “The Corporate Kiss", at right here. I guess the figurative pieces have a stronger and zanier energy – but that’s also what makes them more predictably “weird". The rock paintings, because they are so much harder to read, seem more profound in their strangeness. They remind me of the “specific objects" of minimal sculpture, but captured out there in the natural world. Somehow, I even feel that, in their solitary, unforgiving strength, they have a political engagement that’s more compelling than the explicit politics of some of Foulkes’s later works. It’s not too late for him to go back to his rocks…

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