NEW YORK, NY.-
John Altoon was one of the most outspoken, charismatic, and complex figures in the Los Angeles art scene of the 1950s and 60s. He energized the circle of artists associated with the Ferus Gallery, a nexus of L.A. avant-gardism that included such influential figures as Ed Kienholz, Robert Irwin, Ed Moses, Larry Bell, and Ed Ruscha. A boisterous, hard-living man, he was plagued by bouts of depression and episodes of mania that sometimes turned destructive; this personal struggle is reflected in his work. He died young, at the age of 43, from a massive heart attack. Walter Hopps called his funeral the largest gathering of Los Angeles artists ever.
Published to coincide with a major Altoon retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (June 8September 14), The Astonishing Works of John Altoon
surveys the colorful paintings and virtuosic drawings of this larger-than-life personality. His art is intimate, haunting, and erotic, capturing a magical moment in California art between the Beat Generation and the sexual and psychedelic revolutions. His work is put into context through essays and remembrances from those who knew him best: the poet Robert Creeley; psychiatrist and fan Dr. Milton Wexler; pioneering West Coast curator Walter Hopps; and curator, gallerist, and critic Klaus Kertess. This original collection also features a juxtaposition of Altoons lithographs with a selection of Creeleys poems that the long-time friends originally published as About Women in 1965, as well as facsimiles of his memorial exhibition catalog and posthumously addressed letters from friends.
Tim Nye is director of Nyehaus, a New York gallery that focuses on the Southern California Light and Space artists of the 1960s. Nye co-founded the gallery Nye + Brown in Los Angeles in 2011.