Curating the Mind of John Altoon / Hyperallergic

John Altoon, “Untitled” (1966), ink and watercolor on illustration board (all images © Estate of John Altoon, all photos © 2014 Museum Associates / LACMA)

John Altoon, “Untitled” (1966), ink and watercolor on illustration board (all images © Estate of John Altoon, all photos © 2014 Museum Associates / LACMA)

LOS ANGELES — John Altoon lived in Venice, California, back in the day, during the 1960s, before the ’70s kicked into polyester high gear. In his current retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, curator Carol S. Eliel organizes a view of this Los Angeles artist’s work that spans from his early beginnings in art — heavy strokes of more Cubist-type work — to his delicate, sexually charged ink and watercolors leading up to his death. The challenge with these types of retrospectives is always balancing the artist-as-personality with the artist-as-maker. Eliel does a good job of pulling viewers in through both channels, still ultimately leaving one to wonder about the mystery of John Altoon.

Accounts of the artist often reference his diagnosis of schizophrenia in his late 30s, his death in 1969 at age 43, and his larger-than-life personality. But, like any retrospective, this one springs first and foremost from his creative output, not his personal life. As the first major retrospective of his work, the LACMA show aligns Altoon with well-known art historical movements of the 1950s and ’60s, tracing how he came up in LA’s scene at the time with Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell, and other male artists deemed the “Ferus Group” because of their affiliation with the Ferus Gallery.

Read the full review on Hyperallergic: http://hyperallergic.com/132458/curating-the-mind-of-john-altoon/