Carol S. Eliel, curator of modern art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), has been granted a $50,000 Special Exhibitions Award from the Fellows of Contemporary Art, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit whose efforts to foster California’s contemporary art scene date back to 1975. Eliel’s John Altoon (1925-1969) retrospective is slated to open at LACMA on June 8. The award is typically known as the Curators Award and supports the exhibition of contemporary California-based artists by California-based curators. This year marks the first time that funding has gone to an exhibition of a non-living artist. The grant will help supplement exhibition costs, an artist monograph and programming.
The show (through Sept. 14), the artist’s first major survey, will feature close to 70 paintings and drawings. Altoon rose to prominence in Los Angeles during the 1950s and ’60s, and was largely known for his association with the city’s Ferus Gallery. His career was cut short in 1969, when he died of a heart attack at age 43.
Often excluded from major thematic exhibitions, Altoon’s work falls somewhere between Abstract Expressionism and early Post-Modernism, Eliel told A.i.A. in a phone interview. “From the vantage point of 2014,” she explained, “we have a much different take on an artist who moved very easily between pure abstraction and quite distinctive figuration. I think we forget that for the 1960s, that was actually quite unusual.”
Eliel will invite younger artists to conduct walk-throughs of the exhibition with museum visitors and contribute essays to the catalogue. “What I really think is perhaps most interesting that has not been looked at before, is the relationship of Altoon’s work to younger generations of artists,” Eliel told A.i.A.