New York

John Altoon

Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

John Altoon’s short career offers near-perfect fodder for art-historical mythmaking. It contains all the ingredients of a durable fable: a fiery personality (he fought mental illness, often trashing his own work and threatening to destroy that of others); right-time-right-place fortune (late 1950s Los Angeles, coming into its own as an art community); the esteem and affection of fellow travelers (among them Ed Kienholz, Billy Al Bengston, Ed Ruscha, and others in the Ferus Gallery stable, of which he was a stalwart); and an early death at age forty-three in 1969 (due to a heart attack). True to parable form, redemption follows years of posthumous obscurity except among West Coast cognoscenti. A swell of scholarly and institutional attention to postwar LA over the past decade or so has renewed interest in many of the period’s artists, including Altoon, who seems finally to be getting his

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