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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Connecting the Pieces: John Altoon’s Ocean Park Series Fragments


In 1962, the artist John Altoon (1925-1969) produced a series of large-scale paintings named after his studio location—the Ocean Park neighborhood of Venice, California. The legendary Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles first exhibited the series later that year. Altoon had schizophrenia and, throughout his adult life, battled periods of extreme psychosis. In 1964, during a psychotic episode triggered by the disease, Altoon went into the Ferus gallery storeroom and slashed some of the eighteen Ocean Park Series canvases. After the artist’s death, fragments of the slashed paintings entered the commercial art market. The fact that they were pieces of larger compositions was either unknown or undisclosed. When considered with the seven extant autonomous Ocean Park Series paintings, the fragments are a case study for issues of artistic intent, institutional stewardship, and conservation of damaged artworks.

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