The Estate of John Altoon

Selected Works

Works from the Estate, September 16 - October 29, 2016

Kohn Gallery is pleased to present its first solo exhibition by Los Angeles artist, John Altoon, whose estate the gallery now proudly represents. John Altoon: Works From The Estate will be on view September 16 through October 29 featuring works on paper and paintings from the 1960’s. This careful selection includes never-before-seen work that embodies an intimate and provocative nature of the Beat Generation’s revolution. The exhibit will highlight Altoon’s richly colored gestural abstraction and energetic lines of figural motifs, allowing viewers to vacillate between reality and fantasy.

John Altoon’s boundary pushing abstract and figurative works on paper allow the viewer to explore the incredible relationship Altoon had with line, color and idiosyncratic subject matter. The immediacy felt in his work drew the attention of curator Walter Hopps, who was interested not only in Altoon’s raw gestural quality but in the anti-conformist and political subtexts as well. Altoon deftly assimilated his background as an illustrator with his “…keen awareness of the European and East Coast avant-garde—especially the automatism and free association integral to surrealism and action painting…”1 . Pablo Picasso’s overtly sexual works were known to have had great influence on Altoon when he lived and worked in Spain. Altoon’s nervous line, erotically charged imagery, and fantastically satirical depictions come to full fruition on exhibit together.

Extremely rare paintings from the estate will be on view. Few paintings remain in the Estate as Altoon destroyed many of his own earlier works. Later, towards the end of his short-lived career, Altoon reached new inspiration and had just begun working on a new body of work. A true painter’s painter, Altoon’s visceral and energetically organic forms reflect an exceptionally physical and direct art practice. Altoon is regarded as one the most talented painters from the Ferus Gallery’s abstract painters group. His style continues to resonate and influence artists today.

John Altoon’s significant career blossomed in Los Angeles, California until his untimely death in 1969 at age 43. A seminal artist in both American and West Coast art history, John Altoon was an influential member of Wallace Berman’s infamous Semina circle and the Ferus Gallery’s artists. This exhibition comes at a time during a resurgence and prolific rise of the West Coast artists and movement with Bruce Conner’s retrospective opening at William Turner Gallery on his 90th birthday, a recent solo show at LACMA as well as previous major retrospectives at MOCA Los Angeles; and following LACMA’s major retrospective of Altoon’s work in 2014, illuminating an inspiring career that continues to reverberate today.

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Selected Press

Curriculum Vitae

Born in 1925, Los Angeles, CA

Died in 1969, Los Angeles, CA

1947/1949 Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, CA
1949/1950 Art Center, Los Angeles, CA
1950 Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles, CA

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