los-angeles

View of “Llyn Foulkes,” 2013. From left: O’Pablo, 1983; Big Sur, 1984; Ghost Hill, 1984; Saddle Peak, 1984. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer.

Llyn Foulkes

Hammer Museum

View of “Llyn Foulkes,” 2013. From left: O’Pablo, 1983; Big Sur, 1984; Ghost Hill, 1984; Saddle Peak, 1984. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer.

WE CAN’T ALL BE GOOD LOOKING: This ugly truth is written in the margin of a drawing, inked around 1949, by a teenage Llyn Foulkes. Fourteen or fifteen years old, the aspiring cartoonist sketches six goon-like men whose jowls droop, nostrils flare, tongues wag, and foreheads bulge, and whose necks are festooned with neat little ties. He signs the work “Spike Foulkes,” a nod to the bandleader and satirist Spike Jones, one of Foulkes’s great populist heroes. A tragicomic caricature of adult disposition filtered through an adolescent imagination, the piece already hints at subjects that would define Foulkes’s mature output: the disfigured faces, the shit-happens attitude, the sad-sack masculinity, the alter ego, the depraved American condition.

The untitled drawing is included among the 150 works spanning sixty-two years that make up this retrospective of the artist’s driven, generative

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