John Altoon was an important character in the Los Angeles art scene of the 1950s and '60s. His boisterous personality and enthusiasm energized the circle of artists associated with the Ferus Gallery; a nexus of L.A. avant-gardism that included such still influential figures as Ed Keinholtz, Robert Irwin, Ed Moses, Larry Bell, and Ed Ruscha.
Ferus Gallery Artists, 1959
From Left: John Altoon, Craig Kauffman, Allen Lynch, Ed Kienholz, Ed Moses, Robert Irwin, Billy Al Bengston
Photograph by Patricia Faure
But there's also the matter of the artist's personality; this boisterous, hard-drinking, skirt-chasing man plagued by bouts of depression alternating with episodes of mania that often turned destructive and ugly. And he had died young, at the age of 44, from a massive heart attack.
Altoon at his Venice Beach studio
Detail of photograph by Malcolm Lubliner