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 drawings 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.
In the main gallery, John Altoon’s boundary pushing abstract and figurative works on paper will 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.
In the adjacent gallery, 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 MOMA and SFMOMA; Larry Bell’s exhibition “From the ‘60s” at Hauser & Wirth and his site specific installations with White Cube; Ed Moses’ retrospective 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. Paul McCarthy called John Altoon “one of the most important L.A. artists – flat out”
About John Altoon
John Altoon (1925-1969) was born in Los Angeles. He attended the Otis Art Institute, Art Center, Los Angeles and finished his studies at the Chouinard Art Institute in 1950. Altoon exhibited at the Ferus Gallery and was a prominent figure in the LA art scene in the 1950s and 1960s. Exhibitions of his work have been held at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Corcoran Gallery, Washington D.C; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; The Baxter Museum, Pasadena; and The Los Angeles Country Museum, Los Angeles, CA, to name a few. His work is currently part of a group exhibition: Beat Generation at Centre Pompidou in Paris France which opened in June this year.
Altoon’s work is included in numerous private and public collections around the world, including the Tate Britain, London; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Art Institute of Chicago; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena.
About Kohn Gallery
Since its establishment in 1985 by Michael Kohn, Kohn Gallery has presented historically significant exhibitions in Los Angeles alongside exciting contemporary exhibitions, creating meaningful contexts to establish links to the greater art historical continuum. Significant exhibitions include Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Boxes in December 1986, which opened just weeks before the artist’s untimely death; She: Works by Richard Prince and Wallace Berman which brought together—for the first time—two generations of leading artists from different coasts; Bruce Conner: Work from the 1970s, which inspired the artist’s first solo retrospective in Europe at the Kunsthalle Wien and Kunsthalle Zurich (2010). Exhibitions of important New York-based artists have included new works by Christopher Wool, Richard Tuttle, Mark Tansey, Kenny Scharf, and Keith Haring. Kohn Gallery represents important West Coast artists with long careers and rich histories such as Larry Bell, Joe Goode and Lita Albuquerque, as well as the Estates of Bruce Conner, Wallace Berman, John Altoon and Charles Brittin. Finally, Kohn Gallery boasts an exciting roster of emerging and mid-career artists including Ori Gersht, Ryan McGinness, Rosa Loy, Dennis Hollingsworth, Mark Ryden, Tom LaDuke and Troika. Visit kohngallery.com for the latest information on upcoming exhibitions.