Ed Moses: Green/Bronze
At 87 years old, Southern California-based artist Ed Moses hasn’t showed any indication of slowing down. Considered by many to be one of the preeminent artists of West Coast art, his oeuvre is known for it’s unpredictably and tendency to resist categorization. His penchant for exploration and experimentation could be likened better to that of a scientist rather than an artist, and in that sense, artistic expression becomes synonymous with words like “invention” and “discovery” rather than creation. His latest exhibition Green/Bronze at Charlotte Jackson Fine Art in Santa Fe, Moses showcases his “crackle” paintings as the results of countless hours of material experimentation and in many ways, these paintings serve as maps or guides down his self-described paths of “confusion and ambition.” –Claude Smith, Albuquerque/Santa Fe Contributor
Ed Moses | Y? Copper, 2013, mixed media on canvas 4 panels 72" x 45" each
Ed Moses | Institutional Green/Black (left) 2013 mixed media on canvas 66 x 54 inches; Pink Over Black (right), 2013, mixed media on canvas 66 x 54 inches; image courtesy of Charlotte Jackson Fine Art
His process involves three-steps: a single color is painted on a prepared canvas, followed by a mixture of his own “secret sauce.” Once dry, the paint naturally begins to crack and separate. A second layer of color is added and once dry, the cracking is exaggerated by physical manipulation of the canvas (he often punches them) to produce even more dramatic cracking and separation between layers.
Ed Moses | Green Over Gold, 2013, mixed media on canvas 48" diameter; image courtesy of Charlotte Jackson Fine Art
Ed Moses | Green/Bronze installation view; image courtesy of Charlotte Jackson Fine Art
For Moses, the act of painting is about action; his process is defined by responses rather than judgments and he’s not shy to admit that frequently, he has no idea what he’s doing. As a student of Buddhism, living in the moment has been his modus operandi and his curious methodologies and techniques rely on spontaneity and the unpredictable. The large panels in Green/Bronze are quite successful in drawing attention to themselves in remarkable subtle ways, and it’s as if by a whisper they call out to the viewer from across the room for attention. As non-objective works, the paintings in invite the viewer to simply observe – rather than interpret – the relationships of the web-like fissures, cracks, and colors. Their Rorschach-like ambiguity provides Moses with amusement as viewers ponder forms and search for meaning that is not there. In many ways, he leaves the experience entirely open ended and surprisingly accessible; the viewers take from the paintings what they will.
Ed Moses | Detail, Black Over White, 2013, mixed media on canvas 60 x 48 inches
Ed Moses | Detail, Pink Over Black, 2013 mixed media on canvas 66 x 54 inches
Ed Moses | Detail, Green Over Gold, 2013, mixed media on canvas 48" diameter
Even after a successful 50 plus year career as an artist, Moses’ rigorous studio practice is governed not by money, but his love for painting, an innate response as natural as breathing. Unable to satiate his seemingly endless curiosity and motivation for exploration and experimentation, his most recent efforts have produced yet another fascinating body of work that seems to both investigate painting and question it.
Ed Moses | Plant Desert Must (left), 2013, mixed media on canvas 60 x 48 inches, Black Over White, 2013, mixed media on canvas 60 x 48 inches; image courtesy of Charlotte Jackson Fine Art
Ed Moses is one of Southern California’s preeminent abstract artists, a member of the generation that came to be known as the “cool school” in Los Angeles, alongside Larry Bell, Wallace Berman, Frank Gehry, Dennis Hopper, Robert Irwin, and Ed Ruscha, among numerous equally prominent names. His career has spanned over fifty years since his first exhibition in 1957 at the legendary Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. Except for two brief, but important interludes (one in New York from 1958-60; the other in Europe from 1973-74) Moses has lived in Southern California and his career has been central to the history of West Coast art since the end of Second World War.
Claude Smith is an arts administrator and educator living and working in Albuquerque, NM.