John Altoon in the studio at Gemini G.E.L. Ltd., Los Angeles, 1973
Gift of Kenneth Tyler 2002
Photographer: Kenneth Tyler

John Altoon was born in California in 1924. He served in the Pacific as a radio engineer with the United States Navy during World War II and began his artistic studies upon his return. He studied in Los Angeles at the Otis Art Institute, the Art Centre School and the Chouinard Art Institute before relocating to New York in 1950. In 1954 Altoon travelled to Spain, where he met the poet Robert Creeley, with whom he later created the portfolio About women.

Made at Gemini Ltd in 1966, the portfolio consists of 10 lithographs by Altoon, interspersed with poems by Creeley. The subject of the portfolio, women and relationships, was one that both artist and poet addressed continually in their work.
Emilie Owens


Born in Los Angeles, California, United States of America

Attends Dorsey High School, Los Angeles.  Wins scholarship to Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, but is dissatisfied with the course and returns to Dorsey High School

Serves in the US Navy as a radar technician during World War II

Re-enrols at the Otis Art Institute

Transfers to the Art Center School, Los Angeles, to study illustration, but finds the emphasis on commercial art displeasing and leaves

Enrols at Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles.    Wins Anna Lee Stacey Award for Drawing. Moves to Santa Barbara, California to pursue art full-time; moves to New York and supports himself with advertising jobs

1951– 62
Teaches at the Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles

First solo exhibition, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California

Wins Emily Lowe Award Solo exhibition, Artist’s Gallery, New York

Teaches at the Art Center School, Los Angeles

Meets Walter Hopps and Edward Kienholz, founders of the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles

Included in inaugral exhibition of Ferus Gallery, Objects on the new landscape demanding of the eye

Artist-in-Residence, Art Center School, Los Angeles

Moves to new studio in Venice, California and begins the Ocean park Series.    Teaches at the Chouinard Art Institute

Included in travelling exhibition, Fifty California artists, organised by the San Francisco Museum of Art with assistance from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, originating at Whitney Museum of Art, New York      Receives William and Norma Copley Foundation Grant

Included in exhibition, American drawing, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York

Begins to use an air-brush and creates Hyperion, Sawtelle, Miramar, Seaview, Terrace, Sunset, The princess and the frog, and Cowboy and Indian series of drawings

Completes series of ten colour lithographs, About Women, Gemini GEL, Los Angeles

Solo exhibition, John Altoon, San Francisco Museum of Art, California.  Completes lithograph, Untitled,Gemini GEL, Los Angeles

Included in exhibition, Late fifties at Ferus, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

John Altoon died on February 8, in California 

Barbara Delano © Tyler Graphics Ltd; revised Emilie Owens, 2007
This chronology provides an overview of selected biographical information, major solo and group exhibitions that took place both during his lifetime and following his death.

Further information will be added to this site as the National Gallery proceeds with its research and documentation.

Last updated November 2015