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An Imperfect Heart, Tim Nye

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Memories of John, Robert Creeley

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Cry Me a Little Basket of Tears, Walter Hopps

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Personal Recollections, Dr. Milton Wexler

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The Idaho Hope Gallery Catalogue

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Drawings: Various

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Drawings: Princess and the Frog

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Drawings: Cowboys and Indians

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Paintings

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Lithographs and Creeley Poems

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Letters to John

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John Altoon: Biography

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Credits and Acknowledgements

Photo: John Altoon profile against the window in his studio. 1968 Š Photograph of Malcolm Lubliner. Courtesy of the artist.

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John Altoon

I am drawing a picture in my mind of what is on your mind—I am a little confused in my mind, but your mind comes in clear as hell. 007


Tim Nye

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You’ve got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail. — Charlie Parker

Photography of artwork and Installation photographs courtesy of Thomas Mueller.

Swirling pornography of Hans Bellmer, the social satire (sans the heavy clan imagery), luminosity and ferocious line of Philip Guston, the surrealistic pillow of Roberto Matta, the fascination with contorting genitalia of Lee Lozano, the foot fetishism and fierce application of paint of Georg Baselitz and of course the connected heart to his Armenian brother in arms, Arshile Gorky; this is John Altoon’s world. Altoon is an inward voyeur, however, direct reference to his contemporaries, incidental. Mike Kelly and Paul McCarthy are certainly carriers of his scorching torch. I didn’t know John Altoon. My impressions are a mosaic of words, oral histories and, of course, the astonishing works of art he delivered to the world. Altoon by all accounts was a heart breaker. Charisma oozing from every pore. Ink from a pen. His legendary volatility wreaked chaos on anything and everything in its path. Altoon lived by the adage that with-

out intense pathos there cannot be sublime joy. And those that collided with him seem to have enjoyed both ends of his polarities. The intensity of love for this man seems only rivaled by the intensity of the admiration for his art. It is a too simplistic read to examine Altoon’s drawings and paintings as the dichotomy between joy and sadness—though the free flowing effortlessness by which ink discharged from his fountain in his “speed drawing” style contrasted against the angst filled reflective slowness that oil painting requires, certainly scratches beneath the surface of indeed, a very layered man. The exhibition at Nyehaus brings together 11 paintings and a boatload of drawings. The artistic purge that these two means of expression satisfy have a symbiotic symmetry. Altoon was very prolific, releasing drawings like a nervous tick. Twitching. Water from a (his) hose. The nervous en-

ergy of his line veils the virtuosity of his draftsmanship; Velocity and diabolical mischief apparent in every gesture. Content and style always in interlocking lustful embrace. The paintings. Molasses. Amber like in the way they encase light in their under-paint. The palette an irreconcilable combination of dark nature and incandescent pastels; linseed oil sucked out. A carcass in the desert. And these crazy animals; cows, roosters, pigs, zebras (?) The most minimal of detail rendered with cocky naiveté in stark contrast to the blackness of the gut wrenching humor in his drawings. Drawing and painting. Ying and yang? Or nuclear fusion causing the heart to atomize from the ecstasy and soul sucking pain? Both in equal doses. That is John Altoon.


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Robert Creeley

When John talked of women in the abstract... he gave a sense of this utterly blonde, clean white person, impeccably erotic often, but with no pubic hair... no odor nor tone of any specifying kind. She was the American dream...

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Robert Creeley

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A Note from Tim Nye: Robert Creeley is a seminal poet living in Los Angeles and one of John’s close friends. He did many collaborative projects with visual artists, pairing his poetry with the artist’s imagery. His collaboration with John is included in the book. I have essentially culled through all the all too few catalogs and john and selected the best essays. Photo: John Altoon drawing in his Venice studio. 1968 © Photographs of Malcolm Lubliner. Courtesy of the artist.

When John Altoon died in the early spring of 1969, it was brutally sudden. Kitaj called from Los Angeles to give me the news, and spoke of having been at a party the night previous at which he’d met John finally, and then shortly after saw him leaving in a rush with Billy AI Bengston, apparently in some difficulty. As it happened, they were on their way to see Dr. Asher, John’s friend and collector, to whom he’d previously complained of heartburn, showing up occasionally in tile evening with tile hope the doctor could fix him up. Suggestions that he come around to tile office for a complete checkup never got him there. The “massive coronary” described as cause of death before he had been got to the hospital was tile last thing he’d have thought of still in his early forties, with a life at last solid and productive, and a great deal of tile past’s psychosis now mitigated, thanks to the help of another friend, Dr. Wexler.

He was so particularly L.A. American, so much the determination of this country’s conflicting ‘images’ of itself, that one is forced willy-nilly to think of art and artist as one. It was a decisive way of life as well as all else. More, he was a classic storyteller with a humor and a wit that kept working in all manner of demands. So I tell you in large part what he told me without the least interest in whether or not it is precisely true or accurate, as they say, to the facts. We don’t live facts, we live our imagination of them. Long before I ever met John he was already instance of that so-called power of the imagination, and when we did meet, I confess imagination, and his also, was that he would become a successful commercial artist, which is my recollection of what he does in fact get trained to be. Art, in its reflective and aesthetic presence as value, had little to do with either their understanding or needs. You are what you can do.

One of John’s stories was how he used to sell newspapers in L.A. and the guy across the street from him, also selling newspapers, was the subsequently terrific science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. He told of the gang he hung out with at the beach, of great destructive challenges like riding motorcycles no hands at speeds exceeding 100 m.p.h., or driving souped-up cars at like speeds, blindfolded. I was dazzled and a very attentive listener. And I believed him and still do, incidentally. For example, my own favorite was the account of tile stunted tree, growing in a more or less vacant lot adjacent to Wilshire Boulevard, some well traffic’d section thereof, which John and his cronies managed to turn into a giant slingshot by hacking off its two spare branches to make a crotch, getting a length of inner tube for the sling itself, putting a substantial boulder therein, and laboriously hauling it back as far as they could,


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then letting go to have the boulder go sailing up over the battered board fence into the traffic (jesus!), hitting thankfully the hood of a car only, and stopping it dead. The kids are long gone before the dazed onlookers can figure out what’s happened. Hardly a nice story-but it satisfied some lurking a anger with tile part of life that feels like trying to cross an endless street against hordes of indifferent drivers. Or- more honestly- I just like that it worked. I met John quite unintentionally in 1954, having come back to this country from Mallorca in order to teach at Black Mountain. I’d get to New York as often as I could, crashing variously with friends. One, from college days, a pianist, Race Newton, was living on Spring Street and across the inner court lived all extraordinary lady, Julie Eastman. The novelist Fielding Dawson has given her a distinct immortality in An Emotional Memoir Of Franz

Kline (1967): “Creeley had kept me spellbound about herthe witch from EI Paso. Creeley had written a beautiful story about her and the jazz pianist who lived across the courtyard from hell; and the jazz trumpeter who lived on the floor below her ... “ So that was Race, and the other man, also from Boston days, was Ty Frolund. My story was called “The Musicians” and it was by fact of these various associations that I came to know John. Like Fee, I no sooner met Julie than I was remarkably interested, not in her body, as they say or so I told myself, but in the weirdly pervasive authority she seemed to gather out of the air. Literally I followed her around and so it was she took me along on some of her errands, as she said. One was involved with going up to see Peter Stander, Lionel’s bright nephew, then both painter and actor, and also intrigued by Julie-and very jealous on the instant that I was

the new attraction although, dumbly, I never figured out his instant hostility until later. And then, that same afternoon, on a corner round about 27th and 4th, we ran into John, who looked me over quickly after Julie’s introduction, then asked her about getting his portfolio back. It seems she’d been taking it around for him- he was getting what straight commercial work he could then-and had also been living with him it turned out, but that was now over, but the portfolio hadn’t been returned. Dear Julie! I think I saw John very briefly after that, possibly once or twice. I know I must have given him my address in Mallorca, to where it proved I returned very shortly, to try another year with my wife then (patient woman, but so was I). Anyhow, back in Mallorca, we one day got a letter that John was coming and would have with him two other couples, also painters and their wives, Arthur Okamura

Photo: John Altoon drawing in his Venice studio. 1968 © Photographs of Malcolm Lubliner. Courtesy of the artist.

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(from Los Angeles as was John) and Leon Berkowitz and poet-wife Ida. Terrific! I loved Americans at that pointI’d had the colonial battle all by myself far too long, and no matter Robert Graves and family were most decent to us, and friend then Martin and Jan Seymour-Smith had both got us out of France and kept us company thereafter, it was just a persistently different world, and I was sick unto death of trying to make actual my own. In retrospect, the closest any friend also a painter from that world ever got for me was Rene Laubies, a singular man in all l respects whom Pound had directed me to--and he showed me Fautrier, Hartung, took me to meet Julien Alvard, etc., but again I was far more interested by a small show that Pollock had at his gallery, Paul Fachetti’s, at that same time-a veritable letter from home. We were living in Bonanova, up from EI Terreno, the

suburb of Palma where the heavy money tended to settle. There was a trolley line out from the city and it continued up to the edge of the hills, where John, Arthur and Liz, and Leon and Ida, all managed to find houses. I was very homesick for simple conversation, so almost immediately I began to spend as much time as possible with all the new arrivals, but particularly, as I recall, with John, just that he was by himself and was usually free. He’d set himself up in the garage attached to the house he’d rented, itself packed in against the steep slope of the hill. It was windy up there, and I remember that John ‘s easel, which he’d often put outside, would now and then crash with a sudden gust of wind, dumping the painting on the gravel. I make it sound almost intentionally awkward, on his part, but now recalling, I wonder if he wasn’t, in fact, making it as hard on himself as he could. He was working with oils, for example-

never a happy means or medium for him, just that the paint physically slowed him in a way ink or airbrush didn’t-and to further complicate the process, he’d begun to use raw pigments, mixing them on the spot. It was an incredible Sight, these piles of dry pigment, then the sizable can of linseed oil, then John, his eyes on the canvas, reaching out with his free hand to get hold of the oil which he’d pour, still without really looking, on one or more of the piles. Then, with his brush he’d sop some of it up, and off he’d go-remarkably, altogether articulate. His friends back in New York had been people like Gandy Brodie, mavericks, or certainly inconvenient. John spent time at the Arts Club but never felt easy about it. There was an edge of masters and disciples he didn’t easily accept, or not in that manner. He felt it no respect of those one did thus revere, to lean on their agency and


provision. He’d told me he’d come to New York specifically as a commercial artist, an up and coming one, in the proverbial lightweight suit, straight from L.A., only to find the weather harshly cold and beyond all expectation. He’d been invited to an annual dinner of successful elders, people like Gilbert Bundy (whom it was felt he might one day take the place off ). He was shocked by their cynicism, particularly by Alfred Darn ‘s taking him over to a window of his penthouse, where the celebration was being held, and pointing out an old tenement where he said he’d grown up and his mother still lived. He could spit on it from that very window, and did. John got drunker and more angry, and after being asked to say something, as the newly arrived youngster, gave them veritable hell, or what he hoped was that. They applauded, and said it was just what they needed, someone to keep them awake.

I don ‘t finally know how crucial to him, or successful otherwise, John ‘s commercial work was finally. He drew extraordinarily, always, no matter the occasion-I felt him an absolute genius in this respect-and that gift was equal across the board. For one thing, he never used the usual device that projects an image for tracing, but worked always “free hand”-and did endless studies, in this way, for very mundane drug ads indeed. I don’t think it was any question of his perfectionism, call it. He simply felt most active and comfortable working that way. But because of this training, and the facility he brought to it, he was wary of the pretty, or call it the literally beautiful, in common sense. I remember one time he did a hauntingly lovely sketch of my son, David, looked at it, said, too pretty, and tore it up. Often he’d smudge, blur, distort, work over, do anything he could to break up the simple, direct

containment of his line. He’d watch our kids draw, and delight in how they could know, intuitively, where the action was, where the line could find it. He was a very warm, intensely reassuring man during this time. I knew nothing of his periodic depressions, actually the par noid seizures, that so battered him during those years. My own life was falling apart and it seemed to me as if John had some psychically determined intuition of it all. Then, as my wife drew father away from me, it happened she was drawn to him, and that could have no simple resolution. I left to come back to the States, and for some years only heard occasionally of how he was. So some time after, I was living in New Mexico, I must have got word of him through some mutual friend like Tony Landreau, or possibly Stu Perkoff, whom I’d just met at his reading in San Francisco, etc., etc. Those particulars are always hard to get

Photo: John Altoon in his studio with the neighbor girls. 1968 © Photographs of Malcolm Lubliner. Courtesy of the artist.

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Robert Creeley

One picture is worth a thousand words—but don’t tell me art doesn’t mean something. John always did... if you don’t mean it, why bother? 035


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exactly. In any case, we were back in touch by the late fifties and my wife, Bobbie, and I would stay with him now and then when we were on the west coast. I recall one place he had then, a sort of bungalow feel to it, somewhat down Wilshire Boulevard, or off in back. There was a younger man living with him, whom he’d befriended-shy, raw in manner, very loyal to John, I remember he gave Bobbie a little leather purse he’d made, as a compliment. John himself gave us many drawings; I was embarrassed but deeply pleased and grateful to have them. He was working in ink, drawing with intensely quick resolution, extraordinary haunting suggestions of people, things, very often animals or birds. I have one of a mournful crow-seeming bird, with a little window of sorts in its breast, with a little man’s face in that. I could dig it, like they say. He’d give us piles of them to look through, they were on a mat board, often very

large-there was just no way to make a simple choice, or probably one wanted them all. When John talked of women in the abstract, like they say also, he gave a sense of this utterly blonde, clean, white person, impeccably erotic often, but with no pubic hair, for example, and really no odor nor tone of any specifying kind. She was the American dream, in short, and she was far more a defense, I thought, as an image, than any active desire. I know that John had girl friends who were the classic dumb blondes-but I don’t know that, I’m only saying they looked great, and were always nice to me. I never had a chance to know his first wife, Fay Spain- we talked once on the telephone after they’d separated and her intelligence and care of him was very moving. He had said it was the money that had made it hard, the fact she could go out and buy a Mercedes the way he might a pair of pants. When he

went on location with her, he was the awkward, in the way husband. That could never sit well with him, despite how much they shared as people who had made it the hard way. Then, more years later, after a time out in Santa Monica-I recall a great time on the carousel with John’s terrific dog running round and round after us-he was back in a place on Harper. (He did a great series of that name, sadly slashed during a time of breakdown.) But writing, I can’t trust my memory of the time pattern. But this I do remember very vividly. I was in L.A. again, another old friend, Neil Williams, was there also, and he knew John well. Neil was telling me about John ‘s great new wife, Babs-which proved utterly true. He said she really ate and I should watch her in action. So not long after, as it happens, we all four went out for dinner and I think we had the proverbial steaks, which tend to get filling, after


Photo: John Altoon, Billy Al Bengston, Irving Blum, Ed Moses. Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, 1959.

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ample drink, so it seems we variously left this and that, the salad, the bread, the steak, etc. All of which Babs politely, quietly, and completely ate up. God knows where it went, she never showed it. I think the fact was she had a factually healthy person, as my mother would say, and the system was working perfectly. At this point I feel empty that so much hasn’t got said here, even arguments I’d like to continue on John ‘s behalf as to why hasn’t there been more use of him. Not much is so good or so humanly relieving. Talking to Tibor de Nagy one time at his gallery, being there to see what he had of John’s, in fact, he said that posibly people were intimidated, even spooked, by the humor. They didn’t know what to do with a picture that was so inescapably funny, and if it was in part laughing at them, it surely could be with them also. John invited me generously into a portfolio once, the first

Gemini ever did and the first ever of his lithographs-and we cast about for a title, and ended up with a pretty crunky one, Of Women. Not even Picasso ran so many particularizing numbers on that possibility as did John--cowboys and Indians, the works. My own favorite is one of the usual dowdily buxom lady leaning over the fence to attend a gesticulating, squatty, and naked man, who is pontificating in an amiable way whilst his erect and knobby malehood stands forth from him in a charmingly emphasized way, i.e., the head is a singularly yellow rose. Well, one picture is worth a thousand words-but don’t tell me art doesn’t mean something. John Altoon always did and so do I. If you don’t mean it, why bother.

Photo: John Altoon behind his Venice studio. 1968 © Photograph of Malcolm Lubliner. Courtesy of the artist.

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Walter Hopps

John ...had this way of moving everywhere with a kind of solid bouncy float. It occurs to me that I never heard him move, just his voice and laugh. 041


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Walter Hopps

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Tim Nye: Walter Hopps, the founder of Ferus Gallery (where John first exhibited), captures the absolute insane and wonderful energy of John and is one of the funniest essays I have read on any artist.

He was describing a dream of his, laughing, and holding his thighs. Girls like nymphs, himself, everybody naked, running around, go into a fountain, beautiful, a nice warm fountain. Wakes up, bright, hot morning, a chick on each side of him (one’s a daughter of Aimee Semple McPherson) he has a hard-on and is pissing straight up in the air. Was it in Ojai? Didn’t she have a goat in her pad? “Don’t ever call him The Indian.” To that Artie (Richer) told me I could tell John to bite his ass. I’m confused about the fact that I’m alive now and John’s dead now. This is not something I can ignore and go on to discuss his art. Got to write about him. Anyway, most of his art was done on 30 x 40 Harvey Board about as naturally as a writer reaches for paper 11 x 8 ½. The paintings always, almost always, well, not really always, seemed a problem. The drawings and gouaches and

near relatives just came and came. God, how we came to depend on them coming in those days. Shot into the little design agency on Melrose, very chic and on the make with guys working hard in their bright, half-walled little cubicles with lots of tit décor. John’s going to do a job. Terrific, now and then, for the money. Partner in firm trying to explain what’s to be done while John spills the ink on purpose, seizes a pen point in his fingers, takes somebody’s board and does everybody’s vision of the smart, sharp man signing a check, an image to turn up all over L.A. for Security Bank ads. It was one of his fastest line in the West acts and I didn’t have time to finish a nice cup of their weird coffee before we were on our way out. I’ll tell you, there’s nothing like sunshine on a banana tree with those other guys back in there doing it by the numbers. John’s funeral, in their biggest facility high atop For-

est Lawn, was the largest gathering of artists in Southern California I ever expect to see, one time one place. As funerals go, it was really fine. Milton Wexler did a good job of getting a lot of people to stand up and talk without it being too damned uncomfortable. I didn’t and I still think of all the things I might have said. Had the sense of everybody being there except Ed Kienholz (who hates funerals), whom I really missed since it was Ed who first had introduced me to John in early ’57, although anyone hanging around art in Southern California after the war had at least vaguely heard of Altoon, if they hadn’t met him. Kienholz kept telling me I had to meet this guy who was just back from Spain and who really came on and did very interesting work, although maybe too much of it. Altoon was new to Kienholz since Ed had only been around L.A. for about three years at that time. The “too much of it”


I encountered first: stacks of drawings and various mixed media washes and gouaches on paper in one corner of the original barn-like Ferus Gallery near the Craig Kauffman and Fred Willington paintings of its first big group show, which had some really fine paintings in it, Still, Diebenkorn, Lobdell, etc. Almost couldn’t look at the stuff since there was so much and it all looked interesting. Next afternoon I think Altoon and I are there at the same time, both in such a pleasantly agitated state that we couldn’t do an effective job of either talking or looking, while trying to do both. It was immediately assumed that Altoon would be part of the Gallery and was. Some while later Kienholz, who had the job of physically keeping the Ferus Gallery together, which was not easy, managed to reach me by phone to announce with a certain irritation that Altoon, Dane Dixon and Gil Henderson, I believe, had broken in

the night before, found canvas in the back and done a really bad big action painting on the floor in the middle of the exhibition, leaving it and one hell of a mess for the whole world to enjoy. Bob Alexander was reading Robert Creeley’s poem that John loved perhaps more than any other: “Wicker Basket.” Soft night, really relaxed, Bob can read the poems of his day better than anyone I have ever heard, and when he wants, can do it from a laundry ticket. Think we were at John’s first or second place in West Hollywood. Was John Reed there? Was it Artie Richer who suddenly swan dived from the sleeping loft onto the table where tony [sic] was cleaning an enormous amount of grass? Must have been. “It’s exactly like the color of dirty money.” John referring to a particularly virulent, muddy, gray-green being applied to a new building in Beverly Hills.

Everybody and everything that John encountered and all those people, animals, and things in his head seemed to all find their way into his work. Many, hundreds in fact, turning up again and again in various guises. Really felt this in his first show in the Ferus, shared with John Mason’s rugged ceramics. Thank God I was able to help hang that show. Gave me a chance to really see, learn and come to know John’s drawing carefully for the first time. Ed Primus, one of the town’s gracious pirates of pre-Columbian art, lent a really fine drawing of a tangle of people drowning while funny fish worked on what they could get their teeth into. Only drastic note was how does it all get framed and who pays? Opening night had to have been one of the biggest and weirdest gallery openings ever seen in the town at that time. Seems John knew everybody or they knew him.

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Walter Hopps

He was describing a dream of his... girls like nymphs, himself, everybody naked, running around, go into a fountain, beautiful... 047


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Photo: John Altoon drawing in his Venice studio. 1968 © Photograph of Malcolm Lubliner. Courtesy of the artist.

Enough went on to destroy anybody’s mind. I seem to remember Alexander and Richer stripping and wrestling to what they intended to be the death on the floor with my visiting mother-in-law as a most interested audience. By now word was out that Altoon 30 x 40’s were papering the walls of Beverly Hills. Work by everyone sold badly, but none as well as Altoon’s. And he kept the Gallery going, in fact, to a degree that allowed the showing of a pretty impressive list of artists. All that turns around, but not quite everybody gets his turn. As legend, we could all believe it. I don’t think anyone ever really dealt with it as fact. I mean, who puts his head on a railroad track somewhere in Spain and has the cowcatcher knock him off the tracks merely busted up a little. John was really excited, talking faster than usual, just back from New York, really trying to get me to pay atten-

tion, which I was, but he was so serious he couldn’t tell that, yes, I had heard of Barnett Newman and had heard he was having a show at French & Co. and it was the first one in a lot of years and the paintings were so serious and so good that I wasn’t going to be able to believe it, even if I got my ass on a plane and got there the next day and really looked at those mothers, which I certainly was about to do while I was trying to figure out haw it was that Altoon, whose work seemed so far away from where Newman’s was, should talk to me about this so passionately like no one I’ve heard before or since. Some years later, having climbed into a cab with the Newmans and the Weismans (collectors visiting New York from California), I listened to Barney explain to the Weismans why they were there: “It’s partly because of a lot of young artists who are working in L.A. whom I don’t know and probably never will.”


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Photo: John Altoon drawing in his Venice studio. 1968 Š Photographs of Malcolm Lubliner. Courtesy of the artist.


The trip started off beautifully, my first ride on a jet plane. Altoon, Henderson and myself high and happy watching sunrise on the Pacific and sunset over the Atlantic. Cab straight to the Cedar Bar since Altoon was ready to get with Franz Kline right that minute and Fielding Dawson and Ray Parker, who wanted us to come to dinner, but we never did, but managed to get a room at the Earle Hotel and it was late and we were drunk but we found our way to a club called Jazz Gallery and Art Blakely’s group was the loudest music I had ever heard for a few minutes before I couldn’t hear anything at all, but watched Altoon begin the trip of close encounter with one of the women attached to somebody in that band and that was all before mind turned off. It seemed on and off a few times. On: John had her by the ankles, holding them high in the air, everybody laughing. Where were we? There were a few more on and offs like that. It was a strange thump-

ing sound that woke me up. Bright, daylight, hotel bed, wondered why I had cuffs and cufflinks but no shirt. What was that thumping? John running toward window. Where was Henderson? We’re on the ledge. I couldn’t hear a thing. Total silence. No, total noise, we’re both screaming. People are in the room. Police car. Silence, no it’s the siren. Finally gets through that we are on the way to Bellevue. The most tedious, confused, frightening set of explanations. Cops, attendants, people, receiving room and who’s the patient? Where’s Altoon? Running up and down hallways. Finally under a table in a room full of children. I’ll never forget those children. Sunday morning. On the way up the stairs to my apartment I wondered whose green MG was parked in the drive next to the Gallery. I didn’t see Irving Blum. John was in what used to be the living room before he moved in and was now the drawing storage room talking with someone whose voice

I didn’t recognize. When I walked in I didn’t see them. The gun and pile of money were just too big. Actually it was a small gun and not that big a pile of money. Later John, after he left, wasn’t sure how many thousand dollars, and explained that he came back to this country once in a while to do a job and he had no idea that it was going to happen that day and that it was a hell of a thing for him to do while John was spending the hour with the psychiatrist and that mainly he was in the apartment to give us this Brazilian parrot named Susie. Within two weeks Bengston had fallen in love with Susie. Altoon never really walked around–had this way of moving everywhere with a kind of solid bouncy float. It occurs to me that I never heard him move, just his voice and laugh.

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Dr. Milton Wexler

No doubt you’ll be painting lush figures of angels. With your forthrightness, courage and wit, you may have persuaded God to sit for a portrait. 055


Dr. Milton Wexler

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Tim Nye: Milton Wexler took on John as his patient. To say that that John was a challenging patient cannot be understated enough. Wexler writes beautifully about John and is the only writer that mentions his poetry. I contacted John’s widow Babs Altoon and asked her about his poetry. She had a very dim recollection but told me that all her files had been gifted to the national archive. I went to the archive in Washington DC and photographed the notebooks included them in this publication. Not unexpectedly, John conjures up some stunning and disturbing imagery in his poetry. Photo: John Altoon against the window in his studio. 1968 © Photograph of Malcolm Lubliner. Courtesy of the artist.

They told me they had literally carried John Altoon to my office. As I looked at John in my waiting room and invited him to come into my consulting room, I thought that perhaps the group of artists who made that claim were exaggerating somewhat. John was clearly physically powerful and it would have taken a squadron of giants to get him to the office of a psychoanalyst against his will. Even his quiet entrance into my consulting room meant a degree of acquiescence that gave me an important clue about how to proceed. I already knew that John had gone to La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, the street where many art galleries were located, and had threatened to destroy every last art production on display in every gallery. The beautiful and delicate boxes created by Larry Bell were on exhibition and it would have taken John barely thirty seconds to wipe out years of dedicated and creative work. Panic had seized

the art community, and the painters in my waiting room who had grabbed John and brought him to my office knew that he had gone mad. They also knew that I had treated schizophrenics. I was to be their savior. From John’s half-willingness to come to my office as well as his ready willingness to come into my consulting room, I felt safe in challenging him with very strong language. At first, John looked puzzled and then faintly amused. He explained that God had sent him a message to destroy all of the art on the face of the earth. Then, he was to teach little children how to create art that was genuinely fine and noble. His artist friends in the waiting room had begged him to come and talk it over with me. He knew he could persuade me he was on some God-given course. I would give him permission to carry out God’s will. It seemed to me that John had slipped over the edge of the

precipice but had not fallen all the way. He was clinging to some outcropping of doubt. He seemed willing to negotiate. After hours of discussion, I told him I would think about this mission. In the meantime, he must return to his studio, where he also lived, and must promise to come to see me daily. We must reach some understanding of the heavenly will. John’s quick assent to this convinced me that his delusion was on shaky ground, that for the time being La Cienega was safe. Down the line, in the long haul, I knew I would be dealing with some agonizing emotional state that had driven John Altoon to his grandiose delusion. To everyone’s surprise, John kept his word. For years I saw John on a daily basis, often for many hours at a time. Prior to 1965, he had mild slips into delusional states, either of a grandiose or paranoid nature. Only once did the


paranoia become so severe that I was forced to hospitalize him. This was in 1963, when he refused to come see me, when he locked himself away in his studio, when T thought he was without food, and through the locked door, he suggested to me that others were intent on stealing his art. I shouted orders that he must agree to go to the state hospital in Camarillo. To my utter surprise, he was once again agreeable and he remained at Camarillo for a number of weeks, after which he promised he would not shut himself off again. I immediately signed him out of the hospital and we had a glorious time over hamburgers and beer on the way back to Los Angeles. Often John moved through life as if he were on stage at the Metropolitan. He didn’t ask my secretary for a cup of coffee. His booming voice sang an aria. In one moment, he was a playful child, in the next, an angry adolescent, and in

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058

The Beat Scene, Venice Beach, CA, John Altoon, Maggie Ryan, and Tony Lanreau, 1958, Š Photograph by William Claxton, Courtesy of Demont Photo Management


the next, a thoughtful observer, but I never knew until after his death that John was a great poet. When John died, his wife, Babs, brought me his notebooks filled with wonderful poetry. I read one of those poems at his graveside as his body was being lowered in his coffin. It spoke of death with both passion and awe. No wonder the poet Robert Creeley was his close, personal friend. Over the years, the mad, agonized, tortured artist did reach some level of contentment. Such friends as Ed Moses, Billy AI Bengston, Kenny Price, Craig Kauffman, Frank Gehry, and Larry Bell contributed much to this outcome. Above all, his wife, Babs Altoon, did wonders in settling his life and providing him with a security out of which came his most creative work. One Friday evening, when I was at home alone, I received a telephone call from John. “Milton,” he said in his loudest operatic voice, “I am going to a party. I’m a very happy man. I owe much to you. I’m going to have a wonderful time. I’m calling to say thank you.” “John,” I exclaimed, “Nobody ever does that. I’m speechless. I can’t be-

lieve it. Be happy and enjoy. I love you.” Two hours later, I received a telephone call. The voice was filled with grief and panic. “John Altoon is dead. He didn’t feel well at the party. He died while being examined at the home of Dr. Asher: Come quickly.” I dashed there. There was John propped up on a chair in the living room, sitting as if merely asleep. His face was between white and yellow. His eyes were shut as if somnolent. I went to pieces inside. For the moment, I couldn’t grasp whether he was alive or dead. I couldn’t help the thought that crossed my mind — even in death he is theatrical. You’ve got to be up there somewhere, John. At the age of eighty-nine I should be joining you pretty soon. No doubt you’ll be painting lush figures of angels. With your forthrightness, courage and wit, you may have persuaded God to sit for a portrait. If God happens to be a he, I sure hope you’ll make him look just a touch like me. Just kidding, John. You know, just like old times.

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062

Tim Nye: After John’s death, Ed and Nancy Kienholz did a memorial show for John at their residence in hope Idaho. Ed wrote a letter to John that reads like a beautiful eulogy.


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087


088

F-44, 1967, Ink and pastel on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


089


090

OBJ-38 (for Babs), 1967, Ink and pastel on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


091


092

C/I-49, 1968, Pen and ink with airbrushing on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


093


094

C/I - 1968 - 008, 1968, ink and airbrush on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


095


096

F 1967-30, 1967, ink and watercolor on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


097


098

ANI (Frog #5), 1968, ink, watercolor/board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


099


100

F-13 (Untitled - Frog Series), 1967, Ink and airbrush, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


101


102

C/I-45, 1968, ink, watercolor/board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


103


104

Untitled, circa 1960, pastel and watercolor on board, 30 x 40 inches, (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


105


106

OBJ-12, 1968, Ink and pastel on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


107


108

F 1967-47, 1967, Mixed media on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


109


110

F-1967-37, 1967, ink and watercolor on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


111


112

F-1967-39, 1967, graphite and ink on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


113


114

F 1967-18, 1967, Paint and ink on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


115


116

F-1967-38, 1967, Ink on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


117


118

Untitled, 1968, Mixed Media on Board, 30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


119


120

Untitled, 1966, Mixed media on board, 30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


121


122

B/W-11a, 1968, Pen and ink on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


123


124

obj 25, 1968, mixed media on illustration board, 30 x 40 in (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


125


126

Untitled, 1968, Mixed Media on Board, 30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


127


128

F43, 1966, Ink and paint on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


129


130

F-37, 1967, Ink and paint on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


131


132

F-1967-1, 1967, Paint and ink on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


133


134

F-75, 1967, pastel and watercolor on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


135


136

ABS-77, 1964, Ink and watercolor on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


137


138

J-172 (JA134), Date unknown, Ink and watercolor on board, 30 x 40 in (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


139


140

Untitled, n.d., ink on paper, 9 x 13 inches (22.9 x 33 cm) Untitled, n.d., ink on paper, 9 x 13 inches (22.9 x 33 cm) Untitled, n.d., ink on paper, 9 x 13 inches (22.9 x 33 cm)


142

Hyperion Lady & E.B., 1963, ink and pastel on paper, 60 x 40 inches (152.4 x 101.6 cm)


Harper Series “JA 132�, 1966, Watercolor and ink on board, 60 x 40 in. (152.4 x 101.6 cm)


144

ABS-126, 1966, Airbrush, pastel, and ink on board, 60 x 40 in. (152.4 x 101.6 cm)


ABS-81A, 1966, Ink on board, 60 x 40 in. (152.4 x 101.6 cm)


146

ABS-95A, 1966, ink, watercolor/board, 60 x 40 in. (152.4 x 101.6 cm)


AL-175, 1963, pastel on board, 57.75 x 40 in. (146.7 x 101.6 cm)


148

Untitled (Sea View Series), 1964, Mixed Media on Board, 60 x 40 inches (152.4 x 101.6 cm)


Untitled, 1964, pastel, 40 x 60 in (101.6 x 152.4 cm)


84

J-191, 1967, Ink and watercolor on board, 60 x 40 in. (152.4 x 101.6 cm)


F-14, 1962-3, pastel and ink on illustration board, 60 x 40 inches (152.4 x 101.6 cm)


86

Untitled, 1963, color chalk with ink and acrylic, 60 x 40 inches (152.4 x 101.6 cm)


Untitled (ABS-72A), 1966, pen, ink and colored pencil on illustration board, 60 x 40 inches (152.4 x 101.6 cm)


88

Untitled, 1962, pastel on board, 55 x 40 in.(139.7 x 101.6 cm)


F-4, 1963, Pastel and ink on board, 60 x 40 in. (152.4 x 101.6 cm)


90

OBJ-60, 1968, Ink and pastel on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


91


92

ABS-52 (Untitled), 1965, Airbrush, pastel and ink on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


93


94

ABS-84 (Untitled), ca. 1964-65, Airbrush, pastel, and ink on board, 60 x 40 in. (152.4 x 101.6 c


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96

J-110, 1967, ink, watercolor/board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


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98

F-171, 1966, ink, watercolor/board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


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100

Untitled from Harper Series, 1965, watercolor and ink on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


101


102

Untitled, 1963, color chalk, watercolor and ink on board, 30 x 40 in (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


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104

ABS-57, 1967, Ink and watercolor on illustration board, 30 x 40 in (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


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106

Ocean Park Series, 1962, Oil on canvas, 72 x 84 in. (182.9 x 213.4 cm)


107


108

ABS-41, 1966, Pen, ink, and airbrushing, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


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110

ABS-001, 1966, Ink, watercolor/board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


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112

ABS-47, 1966, Ink, pastel, watercolor/board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


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114

ABS-18, 1966, Ink and watercolor on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


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116

J-93, ca. 1966, Ink, airbrush, and pastel on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


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118

J-92, 1966, Ink, watercolor, and pastel on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


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120

J-95, 1966, Pastel and ink on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


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124


Ani (Frog) 14, 1968, Pastel and watercolor on Crescent illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)

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126


Untitled, 1968, Mixed Media on Board, 30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm)

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128


Untitled, 1968, Pastel, pen and ink on board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6)

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130


Untitled, 1967, Mixed Media on Board, 30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm)

131


134


C/I 13, 1968, pen and ink on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)

135


136


C/I 21, 1968, pen and ink on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)

137


138


C/I 10, 1968, paint and ink on illustration board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)

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140


Untitled, 1968, Pastel and Watercolor on Board, 30 x 40 in (76.2 x 101.6 cm), Edward Thorp

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144

Haircut #2, C. 1963, Oil on Canvas, 66 x 56 1/4 in. (167.6 x 142.9 cm)


Untitled #14, 1960, oil on canvas, 72 x 55.5 inches (182.9 x 141 cm)


146

Untitled, 1962, oil on canvas, 56 x 59 in.(142.2 x 149.9 cm)


Untitled (aka: Male/Female), 1956-1957, oil, sand, and mud on linen canvas, 58.5 x 43 inches (148.6 x 109.2 cm)


148

Untitled (Hyperion Series), 1964, Oil on canvas, 60 x 56 1/2 inches (152.4 x 143.5 cm)


Untitled (All That Jazz), ca. 1964, oil on canvas, 66 x 56 inches (167.6 x 142.2 cm)


150

#12, 1960, Oil on canvas, 56 x 45 in. (142.2 x 114.3 cm)


Untitled (Blue Background), circa 1960, oil on Canvas, 56 x 60 inches (142.2 x 152.4 cm)


152

Untitled, 1963, oil on canvas, 61.375 x 58 inches (155.9 x 147.3 cm)


Portrait of a Spanish Poet (Lorca), 1954-1959, Oil on Canvas, 59 x 47 in. (149.9 x 119.4 cm)


154

Untitled, 1959, gouache and ink, 24 x 18 in. (61 x 45.7 cm)


Untitled, 1959, gouache and ink, 24 x 18 in (61 x 45.7 cm)


156

Untitled, 1961, gouache on paper, 19 x 15 inches. (48.3 x 38.1 cm)


158

ABS-78, 1961, Gouache on paper, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm)


160

Untitled (from sunset series), 1967, Oil on Canvas, 60 x 56 inches (152.4 x 142.2 cm)


162

Untitled (Hyperion Series), 1963-64, oil on canvas, 60 x 56 inches (152.4 x 142.2 cm)


Untitled (Harper Series), 1964, Oil on canvas, 66 x 56.5 inches (167.6 x 143.5 cm)


164

Untitled, 1967, Oil on Canvas, 60 x 48 inches (152.4 x 121.9 cm)


#13 Untitled, circa 1964, Oil on Canvas, 55 x 60 in. (139.7 x 152.4 cm)


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186

Tim Nye: I loved how personal the letter that Keinholz wrote in memory of John and thought it would be nice to invite a number of his closest friends to follow suit.


R o b e r t I r w in

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Dear John, Forty years have gone by since your death. I still remember the big smile, bushy eyebrows and roaring mysterious laughter. I never knew what this meant, but it has stayed with me

JOHN ALTOON THE GLUE THAT THE FERUS TOGETHER. HE WAS ALWAYS ALLOWED throughout all theWAS years. You have left KEPT an indelible markGALLERY on this generation. HIS SPACE AND RARELY CRITICIZED. HIS TALENT FOR DRAWING WAS BREATHTAKING. WHEN HE How lucky we are to GALLERY have suchHE a rich body PART of work available. I hope that people will seePEOPLE the FIRST JOINED THE WORKED TIME AS A GRAPHIC DESIGNER. WHEN IN HIS magic of your marks, thought provoking, funny, and dirty.METHOD These ideas PROFESSION WEREcurious, ASKED TO ENLARGE AN IMAGE, THEsad, STANDARD WASare TOrampant PROJECT TO in THE the work and bring meAND joy. THEN COPY, JOHN HAD THE TALENT TO GO LARGER - FREEHAND - NO SCALE REQUIRED

PROJECTOR REQUIRED.

I salute you John, your wit, your glow, your ability to stimulate and provoke, all at the same time. To feel your sense of humor, aggravation, awe, anger, but still walk away with an amazing

EARLY ON HE HAD A LEGENDARY REPUTATION IN THE GRAPHIC WORLD AS WELL AS THE ART WORLD.

sense of joy and wonderment that entice me every time I look at your work.

HIS CAREER WAS INTERRUPTED MANY TIMES DUE TO HIS MENTAL ILLNESS. THE DRAWINGS HOWEVER

KEPTyou. EXTENDING AND TAKING UP MORE EXCITING TERRITORY. THE PAINTINGS, OFTEN BRILLIANT, HAD I miss A SOMEWHAT LESSER TRAJECTORY. THERE WERE NEARLY A THOUSAND PEOPLE AT HIS FUNERAL. I SAT BESIDE AN OLDER MAN I DID NOT RECOGNIZE. I ASKED HIM WHY HE WAS THERE AND HOW HE KNEW JOHN. “WHY, I USED TO DO HIS DRY CLEANING” HE SAID. FROM THE LOWEST TO THE HIGHEST JOHN NEVER FAILED TO TOUCH EVERYONE AROUND HIM. Representing the John Altoon Estate since l975.

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190


Dear John, In memory to your great contribution to Los Angeles and particularly to the Ferus group, Walter Hopps being the coordinator, later Irving Blum being the director of the gallery. The memory of your presence is a true phenomenon for all of us as how to be and act “painter/artist”. Sort of the Golly Jimson of Los Angeles, a character in the novel by Joyce Cary “The Horse’s Mouth”. Later made into a film with Alec Guinness playing the anti-antihero, much like yourself. Unpredictable, stormy, physically demonstrative, and your amazing ability to track women. You always seemed to have one, two, three or four on your arm. And when one of us made a move you would be there in immediate attendance. If we’d go for another one you would be there. You covered your cubby of women. They all loved you. You had such a magic mouth - poetic in the Beat generation mode. You could sweet talk ‘em with very personal epithets. Usually not addressed, shocking to most of us bourgeois and to them. But they seemed in spite of that wildly attracted to you with your magnificent profile, much like Gauguin’s. We imitated your manner of how a painter should be and act and demonstrate himself. We found your mad behavior so compelling. The day you walked in the Ferus Gallery and asked Irving where your paintings were stored. He was fearful because you had the mad look. When you found your paintings you took a knife and slashed them for being corrupt and patronizing to the commercial menu. The next time you appeared was buck naked scaling the fence at the Veteran’s Hospital Memorial Grounds marked with rows upon rows of crosses of fallen soldiers. You were carrying the Bible and a book of Rembrandt drawings. The police found you impaled on the fence and they scraped you off and you were arrested. The shadow of your presence never leaves. We were all devastated by your passing. My God, what a loss John. We all miss you so much and constantly refer to you as our model and icon of what a real artist can be. I love you. We all love you and can’t forget you. Love & Kisses,

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JOHN ALTOON WAS THE GLUE THAT KEPT THE FERUS GALLERY TOGETHER. HE WAS ALWAYS ALLOWED HIS SPACE AND RARELY CRITICIZED. HIS TALENT FOR DRAWING WAS BREATHTAKING. WHEN HE FIRST JOINED THE GALLERY HE WORKED PART TIME AS A GRAPHIC DESIGNER. WHEN PEOPLE IN HIS PROFESSION WERE ASKED TO ENLARGE AN IMAGE, THE STANDARD METHOD WAS TO PROJECT TO THE SCALE REQUIRED AND THEN COPY, JOHN HAD THE TALENT TO GO LARGER - FREEHAND - NO PROJECTOR REQUIRED. EARLY ON HE HAD A LEGENDARY REPUTATION IN THE GRAPHIC WORLD AS WELL AS THE ART WORLD. HIS CAREER WAS INTERRUPTED MANY TIMES DUE TO HIS MENTAL ILLNESS. THE DRAWINGS HOWEVER KEPT EXTENDING AND TAKING UP MORE EXCITING TERRITORY. THE PAINTINGS, OFTEN BRILLIANT, HAD A SOMEWHAT LESSER TRAJECTORY. THERE WERE NEARLY A THOUSAND PEOPLE AT HIS FUNERAL. I SAT BESIDE AN OLDER MAN I DID NOT RECOGNIZE. I ASKED HIM WHY HE WAS THERE AND HOW HE KNEW JOHN. “WHY, I USED TO DO HIS DRY CLEANING” HE SAID. FROM THE LOWEST TO THE HIGHEST JOHN NEVER FAILED TO TOUCH EVERYONE AROUND HIM.

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194


JOHN ALTOON WAS THE GLUE THAT KEPT THE FERUS GALLERY TOGETHER. HE WAS ALWAYS ALLOWED HIS SPACE AND RARELY CRITICIZED. HIS TALENT FOR DRAWING WAS BREATHTAKING. WHEN HE FIRST JOINED THE GALLERY HE WORKED PART TIME AS A GRAPHIC DESIGNER. WHEN PEOPLE IN HIS PROFESSION WERE ASKED TO ENLARGE AN IMAGE, THE STANDARD METHOD WAS TO PROJECT TO THE SCALE REQUIRED AND THEN COPY, JOHN HAD THE TALENT TO GO LARGER - FREEHAND - NO PROJECTOR REQUIRED. EARLY ON HE HAD A LEGENDARY REPUTATION IN THE GRAPHIC WORLD AS WELL AS THE ART WORLD. HIS CAREER WAS INTERRUPTED MANY TIMES DUE TO HIS MENTAL ILLNESS. THE DRAWINGS HOWEVER KEPT EXTENDING AND TAKING UP MORE EXCITING TERRITORY. THE PAINTINGS, OFTEN BRILLIANT, HAD A SOMEWHAT LESSER TRAJECTORY. THERE WERE NEARLY A THOUSAND PEOPLE AT HIS FUNERAL. I SAT BESIDE AN OLDER MAN I DID NOT RECOGNIZE. I ASKED HIM WHY HE WAS THERE AND HOW HE KNEW JOHN. “WHY, I USED TO DO HIS DRY CLEANING” HE SAID. FROM THE LOWEST TO THE HIGHEST JOHN NEVER FAILED TO TOUCH EVERYONE AROUND HIM.

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JOHN ALTOON 1925–1969

LOS ANGELES, CA

EDUCATION

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

1950

2010

1987

CA

toon, Nyehaus, New York, NY

San Francisco, CA

Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles,

1949-50

Art Center, Los Angeles, CA 1947-49

Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, CA

The Astonishing Works of John Al-

2009

Mary Boone Gallery, New York, NY 2008

John Altoon Paintings and Works on

Paper 1963-1968, Mary Boone Gallery, New York, NY

John Altoon Drawings 1962-1968, The Box Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 2005

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

Prints, Braunstein/Quay Gallery,

1986

Marianne Deson Gallery, Chicago, IL 12 Paintings, Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY*

12 Paintings, Tortue Gallery, Santa Monica, CA*

12 Paintings, Braunstein/Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CA*

John Altoon: Painting and Drawings

1984

York, NY

Baxter Art Gallery, California Institute

1961-1967, Luise Ross Gallery, New

1998

A Critical Survey, Braunstein/Quay Gallery, San Francisco 198 1997

John Altoon, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA 1994

Abstract Works: 1960-66, Braunstein/

Quay, San Francisco, CA

John Altoon: 25 Paintings, 1957-1969, of Technology, Pasadena, CA

John Altoon, Works on Paper, The Arts Club of Chicago, IL; Nelson Fine Arts Center at Matthews Center, Arizona University, Tempe, AZ; Huntsville

Museum of Art, AL; Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah, Salt Lake

City, UT; Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL 1983

Drawings, Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY

Riverside Art Center & Museum,

Art, Sacramento, CA

San Francisco, CA

Paul McCarthy’s Low Life Slow Life: temporary Arts, California College of

vada, Las Vegas, NV 1981

Santa Barbara University Art Museum, Santa Barbara, CA

John Altoon: Advertising Satire Series, Braunstein/Quay Gallery, San Fran-

Nicholas Wilder Gallery,

Drawings, David Stuart Galleries, Los

The Princess and the Frog Series and

1962

1974

Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

John Altoon: An Exhibition of

Paintings, Drawings and Prints, E.B. Crocker Gallery, Sacramento, CA

Cowboys and Indians Series, Quay

John Altoon, Art Gallery, University of California, San Diego

1973

1967

Altoon, California State University

Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach,

Stanford Art Gallery, Stanford Univer-

at Fullerton, CA

John Altoon (1925-1969), Newport CA Felicity

1980

Samuels Gallery, London, England

City, MO

San Jose State College Gallery, San

Drawings, Morgan Gallery, Kansas

M.H. de Young Museum,

Seder/Creigh Gallery, Coronado, CA

cisco, CA

John Altoon: Recent Watercolors,

John Altoon: Ocean Park Series, Ferus

1961

Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 1960

Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, CA

John Altoon: Paintings 1958, Ferus

1954

1979

Nagy Gallery, New York, NY

Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Galerie Hans R. Neuendorf, Cologne,

1966

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA

Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

in Hope Gallery, Hope, ID

Art, CA

Santa Monica, CA

La Jolla Museum of Contemporary

John Altoon: Paintings and Drawings,

1978

Santa Monica, California

Chicago, IL

Dorothy Rosenthal Gallery,

Georgia, Athens

John Altoon-Drawings and Prints,

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Corcoran Gallery of

Art, Washington DC; Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Cowboys and Indians, Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, NY

Francisco, CA

David Stuart Galleries,

1953

Georgia Museum of Art, University of

Show, Braunstein/Quay Gallery, San

Collection-Part II, 1930s to 1950s, La-

Art Gallery, University of California,

New York, NY

Coming Attractions: Gallery Group

1958

1972

West Germany

2007

sity, Palo Alto, CA

Santa Clara, CA

John Altoon: Drawings, Braunstein

the Arts, San Francisco, CA

2006

John Altoon, San Francisco Museum of

John Altoon: Drawings, Tibor de

Part 1, CCA Wattis Institute for Con-

The Art Center in La Jolla, CA

Jose, CA

De Saisset Museum, University of

John Altoon: Drawings and Temperas,

1962-1968, Tortue Gallery,

on Paper, Center for Contemporary

Contemporary Drawings and Works

Angeles, CA

1982

Tortue Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, CA

1991

1988

Jolla Museum of Art, CA

Fine Arts Gallery, University of Ne-

John Altoon: Drawings, Tortue Gallery,

John Altoon, The Faith & Charity

cisco, CA

1963

Drawings 1964-66, Fine Arts Gallery,

Poured Paintings, Dorothy Goldeen

2008

David Stuart Galleries,

1968

Female Nudes: 1962-66, Braunstein/

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV

1964

John Altoon-Memorial Exhibition, La

1975

Drawings, Edward Thorp Gallery,

Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1969

Braunstein/Quay Gallery, San Fran-

Riverside, CA

Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY

1992

1976-78

Art, CA; Pasadena Art Museum, CA; San Diego

Fischbach Gallery, New York, NY Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CA John Altoon: Drawings, David Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, CA 1965

Ganso Gallery, New York, NY

Artists’ Gallery, New York, NY

California Art from the Permanent

guna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA California Modern, OCMA, Newport Beach, CA

La Dolce Vita - Selections from the

Ruth and Murray Gribin Collection, MCASD La Jolla, La Jolla, CA 2005

Semina Culture—Wallace Berman and his Circle¸ Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA 2004

Mark Making, Schneider Museum of Art, Ashland, OR

Hack-Light Gallery, Phoenix, AZ

2002

David Stuart Galleries,

San Francisco, CA

Los Angeles, CA

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA

Revisited, Braunstein/Quay Gallery,

Ferus, Gagosian Gallery, Chelsea, New York, NY


COLLECTIONS

1997-99

Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY

1960-1997, Castello di Rivoli, Museo

The Artist and the Airbrush, Art

Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural

San Jose, CA

Sunshine and Noir: Art in L.A.

d’Arte Contemporanea, Italy; Armand Center, Los Angeles CA, Louisiana

Department, San Jose State University,

Museum of Modern Art Humlebaek,

1979

Germany, Castello di Rivoli, Museo

New York, NY

the Armand Hammer Museum of Art

1978

Denmark; Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg,

d’Arte Contemporanea, Italy; UCLA at and Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA Sexy: Sensual Abstraction in California

Tibor de Nagy Gallery,

Dorothy Rosenthal Gallery, Chicago, IL

Art, 1950s-1990s, Contemporary Art-

1977

porary, Las Vegas, NV and Armory

Modern Era, San Francisco Museum of

ists Collective/Temporary ContemCenter for the Arts, Pasadena, CA Braunstein/Quay Gallery Artists,

Shasta College Gallery, Redding, CA 1993

Cypress College Airbrush Invitational, CA 1990

California Painting & Sculpture: The

Modern Art, CA; National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C.

A Collection Without Walls, California

Museum of Modern Art, Shiga, Japan;

Museum, Newport Beach, CA

1985

New Acquisitions, De Saisset Museum,

A Drawing Show, Newport Harbor Art

Images of Women, Linda Farris Gallery, Seattle, WA

Santa Clara, CA

Four Santa Monica Artists: John

1983-84

Francis, Stanton MacDonald-Wright,

The First Show, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA

Altoon, Richard Diebenkorn, Sam

Art Gallery, Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, CA

1981

1974

stein Gallery, San Francisco, CA

San Francisco, CA

20th Anniversary Exhibition, Braun-

Drawings, Quay Gallery,

of Art, CA; Seattle Art Museum, WA; Portland Art Museum, OR*

Annual Exhibition of Artists of Los

College, Claremont, CA

Austin, TX

Angeles County Museum, CA

American Drawings 1963-1973,

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY 1971

Eleven Los Angeles Artists, Hayward Gallery, London, England

Spray, Santa Barbara Museum of Art,

Drawings & , University of Texas,

David Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, California 1965

Angeles County and Vicinity, Los

Drawings and Gouaches by John

Altoon and Richards Reuben, Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

1960

1964

Angeles County and Vicinity, Los

San Francisco Museum of Art, CA

Annual Exhibition of Artists of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL Birmingham Museum of Art, AL Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Fine Arts Museum, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA

La Jolla, CA

1959

Museum of Contemporary Art—

New York, NY

Annual Exhibition of Artists of Los

MOCA—The Geffen Contemporary,

Quay Gallery, Tiburon, CA

Angeles County Museum, CA

and Sculpture, Krannert Art Museum, paign, IL

Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, PA

Angeles County and Vicinity, Los

David Stuart Galleries,

John Altoon, Gouaches, Ferus Gallery,

Galleries, Los Angeles, CA

Fifty California Artists, Whitney

1958

Late Fifties at Ferus, Los Angeles

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN;

1968

Tamarind Lithographs, David Stuart

County Museum of Art, CA 1967-68

Fourth International Young Artists’ Exhibition, Tokyo, Japan

Drawings by Americans, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

NY-LA Drawings of the Sixties,

University of Colorado, Boulder; Art

Los Angeles, CA

Museum of Art, New York, NY;

LA, CA

Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo,

Annual Exhibition of Artists of Los

nized by the San Francisco Museum

Angeles County Museum of Art, CA

NY; Des Moines Art Center, IA. Orgaof Art with the Assistance of the Los

Angeles County and Vicinity, Los

Angeles County Museum of Art, CA*

1957

Pacific Coast Invitational, Santa

manding of the Eye, Ferus Gallery, Los

Barbara

Museum, CA; Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, CA; Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco Museum

Objects on the New Landscape DeAngeles, CA

Art Direction/Design Kyle LaMar

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

Photography Thomas Mueller Printing Earth Enterprise

Thanks Alan Shaffer, Charles Cowles, Billy Al Bangston, Edward Moses, Edward Thorp, Hratch Sarkis, Irving Blum, Joni Gordon, Laddie John Dill, Michael Hort, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Ned Jacoby, Robert Berman, Robert Irwin, Roberta Neiman, Shannon Trimble, Vivian Rowan Kauffman, and The Whitney Museum of American Art

John Altoon, Mel Ramos: Lithographs,

American Drawing, Guggenheim,

Tate Britain, London, England

Los Angeles County Museum

Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

David Stuart Galleries, LA, CA

Editors Jacqueline Miro and Tim Nye

alo Alto, CA

Gallery/Publishing Director Allison Wilbu

San Francisco, CA

Fourth Annual of California Painting and Sculpture, The Art Center,

Stanford University Art Galleries, P

Levi-Strauss Collection,

Santa Barbara, California

University of Illinois at Urbana/Cham-

port Beach, CA

Albuquerque 1966

Quay Gallery Group, Claremont

The Last Time I Saw Ferus 1957-1966, Newport Harbor Art Museum, New-

Museum, University of New Mexico,

1973

Contemporary American Painting

1975

The Hara Museum, Tokyo, Japan

Washington DC

State University, Northridge, CA

Abstract Painting on the West Coast, Nagoya City Art Museum, Japan;

8 from California, Smithsonian,

CREDITS

of Art, LA, CA

Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, CA

Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA

Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, CA Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA

San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA

Special Thanks Babs Altoon, Mary Boone, and Ruth Braunstein The Faith and Charity In Hope Gallery: Facsimile of “The Faith and Charity in Hope Gallery” catalogue, originally published on the occasion of the exhibition “John Altoon,” September 1982, is reproduced by courtesy of © Kienholz, and granted with limited rights. With special thanks to Nancy Reddin Kienholz, and L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

199


Copyright Š 2010 Nyehaus Gallery. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, by any means, including mechanical, electric, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. www.nyehaus.com gallery@nyehaus.com 212 366 4493 358 West 20th Street, #2 New York, NY 10011

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The Astonishing Works of John Altoon