- Opening Reception: September 17th 2011, 6-9pm
A mass of drawings. All hung on one wall. John Altoon was a genius in his process, making drawing after drawing after drawing. Drawing was something he did everyday as part of his artistic practice, as part of his life. For this exhibition, The Box will be exhibiting 40 such drawings, each individual and exquisite in their play and technique.
The drawings are all 30” x 40” and range in styles and themes. There are pieces in illustrative style with only ink and cross-hatch lines. In contrast, there are pieces from his Animal Series that have free lines, loose forms and playful light colors made with airbrush. While each is unique and different, as a curator I became interested in the sheer amount of drawings that were so strong. These 40 pieces, all coming directly from the Estate of John Altoon, are from a span of only two years (1966-1968); and it is clear that these are just a minimal selection of what he produced during this time period. These pieces were a part of his everyday life; the images give one a glimpse into Altoon’s vivid imagination.
Just to give you a taste of this imagination, a favorite piece done in a detailed, loose style portrays a hermaphroditic character with a kite string made up of penises coming out his mouth. Nearby there is a woman bent over, with her bottom exposed, being seduced by an elephant and a monkey. While holding perversity in its clutches this drawing is both confronting and frolicsome. The sexuality of these pieces cannot be denied; Altoon presents sex and the sexual body in a free and open way, not to be restricted by cultural ideas of sexuality. He pushes us to a place where we can be turned on, laugh out loud and be uncomfortable; there is play, there is pain, there is pleasure, there is life.
Altoon, who died an untimely death of a heart attack at the age of 43 in 1969, was a prominent figure in the Ferus gallery in the 1950s and 1960s. This is our second exhibition of Altoon’s drawings—the first, which took place two years ago, included his Advertising Parodies and large-scale pastels, along with pieces from his Animal Series, Cowboys and Indians Series and Object Series.
Aug 1 2012linkVideo: Irving Blum and Billy Al Bengston speak about the work of John Altoon, 2010-11
From the archive of the Getty, on the occasion of Pacific Standard Time
Art in LA: 1945 - 1980
By Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer
October 10, 2008
By David Pagel
The Los Angeles Times
22 September 2011