Music is my joy, painting is my angst.

Llyn Foulkes

Hungry Eyes

Diana Zlotnick and Post-War Art in Los Angeles

Diana Zlotnick arranging artworks at home, accompanied by her family Photo: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA

A voracious collector, comm­­unity builder, and champion of emergent contemporary artists, Diana Zlotnick tapped into the Los Angeles art world at a particularly charged moment of post-war creative ferment. Today, the art milieu of the late 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s Los Angeles has taken on nearly mythic qualities, conjuring Bohemian fetes in canyons, the experimental openness of CalArts, Venice Beach warehouse studios, and, broadly, an explosion of material and conceptual inquiry through performance, sculpture, video, painting, publication, and more. Zlotnick immersed herself wholeheartedly in this atmosphere, led by fearless curiosity, dedication, and deeply felt connections to the works that she brought home.

Collect art that cancels out the rest of the world…—Diana Zlotnick, Newsletter on the Arts, 2013

Born in 1927 and raised in Los Angeles, Diana Zlotnick (née Shirley) attended Fairfax High School and would later support herself as a schoolteacher. She met Harry Zlotnick at a USO dance, and, after a whirlwind romance, the couple married on July 3, 1955. Being a schoolteacher was decidedly not Ms. Zlotnick’s calling, nor was being a dental hygienist (she flunked the program). Encouraged by her husband, who was able to support the family as a veterinarian, Zlotnick stopped working—and started collecting. With determination, savvy, and a healthy dose of chutzpah, she went on to amass an extensive collection from major artists as their stars were rising – among those who most captivated her were Wallace Berman, Chris Burden, Llyn Foulkes, George Herms, Channa Horwitz, Gloria Kisch, Ed Ruscha, and Richard and Shirley Pettibone.

There aren't many collectors like Diana Zlotnick, though there ought to be...Not content to play the passive art consumer, she quickly began circumventing the gallery system, approaching artists directly — visiting studios, exploring work in depth and developing real relationships.

Doug Harvey, L.A. Weekly, October 27, 2005

Llyn Foulkes b. 1934

Llyn Foulkes was born in 1934 in Yakima, Washington and began studying music and art at a young age. He started playing music at eleven-years-old, inspired by the satirical and novelty bandleader Spike Jones. Foulkes first ventures into visual art were copying comic books and he had aspirations to be a cartoonist. He studied music at Central Washington College for a short time before being drafted into the Army in 1954. While in Germany, he worked on small watercolors and drawings and also absorbed the dark and devastating atmosphere of post-war Germany. After serving in the army for two years, Foulkes moved to Los Angles in 1957 to attend the progressive Chouinard Art Institute, which was founded by Walt Disney and later became California Institute of the Arts. His classmates there included other 20th century luminaries such as Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, celebrated Disney animators and costume designer Edith Head, as well as his future wife, Kelly Kimball, the daughter of one of the head animators at Disney, to whom he married in 1958. Foulkes found the structure of the school stifling and only attended for two years.

Foulkes began showing his work at Ferus Gallery in 1959, then run by famed curator Walter Hopps. Instead of focusing on the social aspects of cultivating his art career, Foulkes committed himself to his family and his art practice, driving a taxi during the day. Foulkes’ visual work is marked by an anti-establishment contrarianism that rages against art as commodification. His work can be somewhat elusive; instead of settling into any one medium or predictable style, Foulkes weaves together music, painting, assemblage, illustration and collage to create works of irreverence and caustic satire that take on materialism, repressed sexuality, violence, greed and humanity’s (especially America’s) propensity toward these moral deprivations.

The work gaining momentum in the 1960s in Los Angeles was more concerned with traditional aspects of aesthetics and was characterized by light, space, minimalism and a cool detachment. Foulkes was more aligned with poets and outsider artists such as George Herms, Wallace Berman, Edward Keinholz, thus he always remained a bit on the margins of the prevailing art scene, creating works centered on constructed memory, violence, disfigurement and political figures. He was also part of several bands throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including The Rubber Band, with artist R. Crumb and has been refining his one-man band contraption, The Machine, since 1979.

It has been said of Foulkes’ work that it is re-discovered every ten years. It may be more accurate to say that Foulkes reinvents his work every ten years. Ever restless, creating out of a fume of discontent, Foulkes is never content to settle into one mode. In the 1980s, rocks and archetypal western American landscapes, rendered with a dry, unromantic tone started to figure prominently in his work, accompanied by American cultural touchstones such as Mickey Mouse, superheroes, guns, vacation postcards and the Lone Ranger. After decades of creating art through a lens of critiquing the myths, histories, personalities and problematic psyches of American culture, Foulkes’ work of the 1990s and 2000s took yet another turn. His paintings became more introspective, examining the psychological aspects of death and his own ego, fears and beliefs, utilizing the motifs that have run through the entirety of his singular body of work.

Interest in Foulkes’ work continues to come in waves, growing in substance and esteem each time. A major retrospective of his work was held at The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles in 2013, following inclusions at the Venice Biennale in 2011 and dOCUMENTA (13) in 2012. Foulkes continues to work from his home and studio in downtown Los Angeles, in a space he calls the Church of Art.

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