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Music Man Expresses Himself in His Foulkes Art

November 23, 1995

Llyn Foulkes is a performance artist who sticks Walkmans in his paintings, sings protest songs about Mickey Mouse and blows off steam playing his self-built, one-man-band machine. This contraption, which he merrily played Thursday at the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, features bike horns, cowbells, empty water bottles and drums.

The crowd's reaction to his performance?

They loved it and danced right along.

Surprisingly, his gizmo--which looks like a car wreck--creates jazzy sounds easy to shake to.

For his act, Foulkes removed his shoes and socks, sat down on a bicycle seat, then pushed, pulled and blew odds and ends that emitted percussive notes while singing about Hollywood and how Disney has changed the face of Southern California life.

Mickey Mouse is a topic in his paintings, as well. His retrospective "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" continues through Jan. 21 at the museum. His work--which employs found objects--has been displayed in Pop, Dada and figurative art exhibitions.

Meeting Spike Jones in 1945 inspired an 11-year-old Foulkes to form a vaudeville band that played "cartoon sounds in cartoon music." In the '70s, he appeared on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" with the Rubber Band, but in 1979 he returned to his solo act.

Before the performance Thursday, people inspected Foulkes' sound machine as closely as they did his 3-D artwork. They wanted to see how the bike horns were amplified to sound like trumpets. One "instrument" was a tube that changed sound depending on how far he pulled on it.

Foulkes had some technical problems during the gig. No problem, though; he solved them by getting down on his hands and knees and adjusting the series of thingamajigs that make the drum go.

Call it performance art.

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