PRINT April 1963

Three Los Angeles Artists

LARRY BELL, BORN CHICAGO, Illinois, 1939; lives in Venice, California. Studied at the Chouinnard Art Institute 1957–59. One Man Exhibition Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, 1962.

Bell’s early work consisted of severe, dark, low-keyed, loosely painted somewhat geometric statements. He was first noticed in an exhibition at the now defunct Huysman Gallery in 1961 entitled “War Babies,” a communal introduction to the work of Bell, Joe Goode, Ed Bereal and Ron Monasura. All four of these artists studied together at Chouinnard Art Institute and were strongly influenced in their particular views by Robert Irwin and Richards Ruben.

After this initial phase Bell entered into a body of very personal, but very simple and precise Hard Edge paintings. Unique to these paintings is the cut-away of two diagonally opposite corners of the ground, already a premonition of his next phase, probably a non-illusionistic Constructivist focus. In the changeover to the first of these constructions there is a clear refusal to raid classical forms, fused with an awkward somewhat naive attempt to make a personal statement.

GEORGE HERMS, BORN WOODLAND, California, 1935; lives near Malibu Beach, California. As far as is known, no formal art training. One man exhibitions, Batman Gallery, San Francisco, 1961; Aura Gallery, Pasadena, 1963. Also exhibited in “Object Makers,” Pomona College, 1961, and the Museum of Modern Art “Assemblage” exhibition, 1961.

Herms, by 1957, had completed, at Hermosa Beach, a full assemblage environment and lived there in close association with a group of poets and artists, particularly in the milieu of Wallace Berman. In 1958 he moved to Larkspur, California, and set up house on a canal near an abandoned shack where he exhibited his own work as well as that of other artists. In 1962 he moved to Topanga, California, and has again recently moved to the mountains behind Malibu Beach, off an unmarked road, where he lives in absolute isolation with his wife and child. He has again set up a totally permissive environment and has his own periodic exhibits, or rather sales, called “Tap City Circus.” People pilgrimage there to see him and buy his work.

Herms is a total romantic, completely anarchistic and absolutely apolitical—he would consign everyone to heaven.

Within the broad category of assemblage, he is the most informal of all. The antithesis of anything decorative, indifferent to, and totally unconcerned with taste, style and the fashionable. He does, however, want to communicate as directly as possible with an audience, and likes his works to be seen.

His work has no distinct or separable ground, only a support which is part of, and lost within, the object. There is a unique and distinct identity to each piece which appears clearly and positively self-contained. They are of great simplicity with very few parts, the image generally centralized with a definite hierarchy of position. For the most part he does little drawing or painting on his pieces; they are mostly carefully selected objects, or pieces of objects, stuck together.

LLYN FOULKES, BORN YAKIMA, Washington, 1934, lives in Pasadena. Studied music and art, is a graduate of the Chouinnard Institute, 1957–59. Served in the U.S. Army in Europe, 1954–56. One man exhibitions: Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, 1961; Pasadena Art Museum, 1962. Now shows with the Dilexi Gallery.

Foulkes is a powerful, strong and gripping image maker of Baconian horror. Whereas Bacon’s morbid and shocking imagery is of a psycho-erotic origin and lashed with frenzy and guilt, Foulkes’ art is a personal reliquary—he reconstructs an imaginary past that haunts him like a mirage. This past is so far removed from an everyday vision of life that at first sight it appears to be associated with intense morbidity, even, perhaps, insanity. He actually likes things of which most people would be frightened. He likes the imagery and world of Poe, but does not follow the same romantic programme. He is, instead, a serious formalist with a strong and powerful sense of anticlimax. This feeling of freedom from mawkish sentiment, combined with an absolute refusal to allow good taste in painting to overtake his personal sense of what painting is about, gives his art its raw, unnerving effect.

Each work is a very distinct and separate experience based on a strong and formal order, often with a compulsive repetition of format and a deluge of apparently similar images controlled by a high technical innovation. He constantly creates and invents fresh means to enlarge and express his insights. Inside his narrow, restricted and almost monochromatic palette of black, dark brown, grey and white he creates a tremendous range of dynamics. Gold and red appear sparsely in certain paintings, not as a decorative highpoint, but rather a dramatic one. Typical of his images is either a black cross—a reminder of fascism, death and dreadful violence, or a photographic rocky landscape anthropomorphized with faces, flesh and fingerprints. Again there is always a formal break up of images within images, paintings within paintings, paintings of a photograph with a photograph within.

John Coplans