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

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the November 2008 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.