New York

Llyn Foulkes

Gruenbaum Gallery

In abstraction, the frame has been echoed incessantly as composition. It has caused the much discussed “edge” problem. The frame has presented itself as an ornate gold division and as Bruce Boice’s plain pine wrapping which signals “frame.” The frame demarcates the boundary between “art” and “life.” Inside it, in the safe convention of the painting space, the artist enjoys “freedom.” Outside that frame, the world impinges on that freedom, being preoccupied with finances.

Llyn Foulkes makes his own frames. No baroque ornament which says “pricelessness,” and no silver section frame which automatically confers modern art status. Foulkes’ wooden frames are sometimes painted olive green, or maybe brownish red. Some of them are splintered, perhaps naturally; some are stamped “hecho en Mexico.” The frame can be made from once-useful material: the most interesting one looked like white pipes from a steamship, halved, opened up, with four elbow joints for corners. What might it mean outside of its being a strange object used in a dissociated way?

Bringing up Surrealism doesn’t really help. Found stamps and extraneous cutouts, biomorphic shapes and enigmatic prose do not necessarily imply Surrealist theory. Foulkes will dedicate a painting to three sisters, and write the dedication three times around the frame. The personal meaning attached to the work is never drawn out—it turns upon itself, upon each successive work, to form an atmosphere of superficial unconsciousness. The bizarreness is different from everyday neurosis. It’s not disturbing or unsettling psychically. And it’s not shocking as art. In fact, it’s rather tame and conservative. Why won’t Foulkes upset us? Because we stand outside the frame.

He paints faceless men who reach out beyond the frame into the world, where they expose their true nature. Marked as capitalist pigs, the men clutch dollar bills in their tightened fists. Foulkes remains safe inside his frame of freedom, pointing the finger at us. Has he forgotten that the gallery space itself is also a frame? Can we suspend the everyday world in that space if we find transcendence within the picture plane? Or is the reverse more true, that not accepting the transcendence of the gallery, we cannot accept the magical space of the picture? Foulkes would have us labelled as bad guys for admiring money before we admire his painting, but what separates the two? The frame is not a good enough answer.

Jeff Perrone