Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse, and Llyn Foulkes

New Museum
Aug 6, 2013 10:02PM

Foulkes deeply admired his first father-in-law, Ward Kimball, one of the head animators at Disney Studios. In the late 1970s, Kimball gave him a copy of the Mickey Mouse Club Handbook from 1934, which included a letter detailing how the club would teach its members to be good, patriotic citizens. Appalled by how successful Disney had been in its effort to brainwash American children, Foulkes developed a lifelong skepticism and distrust toward the corporation. A few years after being given the handbook, Mickey Mouse became a recurring figure in Foulkes’s work. An early piece with a satirical image of the cartoon character, The Last Outpost (1983), depicts Mickey in drag as a pioneer woman. This became a signature Foulkes motif. In 1996, he presented a solo exhibition at Patricia Faure Gallery in Santa Monica titled “The Legend of Mickey Rat,” which featured a new series of paintings depicting the menacing Mickey and his puppet master, Walt Disney. Foulkes also penned a song with the same title (later changed to “Once upon a Time There Was a Mouse”), which accompanies his tableau painting Pop (1985–90). For Foulkes, Mickey Mouse symbolizes the megacorporations that have taken advantage of innocent children, leaving their parents to pay the price.

"LLYN FOULKES" is on view through September 1.

Images: Installation views, "LLYN FOULKES" at New Museum. Courtesy New Museum, New York. Photo: Benoit Pailley

New Museum