It took more than seven years to shoot the documentary “Llyn Foulkes: One Man Band,” which had its world premiere Thursday night at the Los Angeles Film Festival. A relatively time span to how long it can take artist, and the film’s subject, Llyn Foulkes to complete some of his pieces. Co-directors Chris Quilty and Tamar Halpern discussed this fact, and others, at the Q&A; after the screening.
Foulkes worked on “The Lost Frontier,” a piece featured in the film, for almost 7 years. The documentary shows his scramble the night before an opening in New York to try to get it finsihed. He paints and staples various pieces to the large, mulitmedia, semi-3D work, takes a step back, and contemplates repainting the sky...
If it weren’t for the deadline, you get the sense that the process would have continued indefinitely.
The documentary spends time in his studio as well as driving around Los Angeles reminiscing about places in his past and exploring his musical side as he plays “The Machine,” a musical contraption of many parts, that he plays solo, earning him the title “One Man Band.”
Foulkes is a Los Angeles native who broke into the art scene young, landing a solo exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in the early 1960s, before age 30. With commentary from various art world personalities, family and even Dennis Hopper, we learn that he was kicked out of the Ferus Gallery for insulting another artist’s work and has struggled to regain acceptance in the art community.
The film really stands out in Foulkes’ brutal honesty about his career and frustrations — but also manages to shows his comedic streak.
“I never felt like Llyn was witholding anything from us,” said Halpern. “He was so honest and willing to let us barge into his studio, which is an inner sanctum — this private place where he created and destroyed and remade.”
He also liked to talk — a lot. “We devised a plan,” said Quilty. “Tamar would go inside and mike him up, and I’d get the camera ready in the car, and I would immediately start recording because as soon as she’d walk in he’d be talking.”
The film was originally titled “Llyn Foulkes’ Lost Frontier” and was only 20 minutes long, but it grew to a runtime of 88 minutes as Quilty and Halpern continued to be intrigued by Foulkes’ happenings. Much of the documentary takes place during a lull in Foulkes’ career, filled with his own commentary about his struggles, especially after he showed “The Lost Frontier” at a gallery in New York, and received minimal turnout. But in the last couple of years, Foulkes’ career has had a reincarnation, landing him on the cover of “Art in America” and a retrospective opening in February at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. The retrospective also opened at the New Museum in New York last week.
Foulkes was in the audience last night, but after a request to come on stage he responded, “You saw enough of me in the film,” to laughter.