The Palm Springs Art Museum is not any mid-sized museum. The renovated brut building huddled at the base of the soaring San Jacinto Mountain smack downtown Palm Springs has been updated with flair and intelligence by director Steven Nash and his posse. Many eye filling modern and contemporary works here. Sleek installation design and a smart juxtaposition of pieces make an excursion through the changing exhibitions and permanent collections edifying and fun.

No moment is more eye-popping than finding Llyn Foulkes’ provocative rant on the fallacy of American’s Manifest Destiny hanging out in the midst of a horde of 19th and early 20th Western-scapes and cowboy sculptures. Foulkes’ 1983 mixed media marvel will surely continue to be compelling long after the other works in this section will have been stored away. The experience of comparing an example of big art, travel studies and bronze bibelots that all address the American landscape is interesting – but not for long. All eyes are on The Last Outpost.

Llyn Foulkes’ Last Outpost is formatted as if it is a Renaissance altarpiece – the center panel of a triptych. This mixed media, wall sized lament, confronts the myth of the American West. A hardscrabble landscape is surrounded by a crude barn wood frame. A perdella stages the Lone Range prone and impotent. Stage right, a woman gowned in pioneer style and sporting Mickey Mouse’s head, stiffly leans against a rough pillar. Both grinning like fools. A horseshoe crowns the fame lending not an iota of luck to the desolation. A lone boy, gun in hand, wanders in the distance. One wireless telephone pole (Or is it a cross?) signals modern communication’s empty promise. Yikes!

Foulkes is a famously cantankerous Californian who has produced an oeuvre of intelligence and single uniqueness for over 50 years. An artist’s artist who cares less if his rebukes offend. Visual complexity, technical virtuosity and searing political commentary make his seldom seen work a treat; one that can be had today at The Palm Springs Art Museum.

RM

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