California Cool: The Sculptural Paintings of 89-Year-Old Ed Moses

At 89, famed California abstractionist Ed Moses is still making paintings that are ahead of his time. At William Turner Gallery, in Santa Monica, California, new paintings by Ed Moses are on view through the summer in an exhibition titled “Now and Then.” Moses has often been described as a “mutator,” as his abstract paintings ignore conventions and he frequently transforms his practice to explore new techniques and styles, and the relationship between painting and sculpture. 

Moses’s works are frequently framed by two metal pipes running vertically along the edges of the paintings. They are attached to the back with brackets, are often partially painted, and occasionally include a chain that runs across the surface of the painting, linking them. In Stares Dwn (2015), a funky grayscale surface has been marked with repeating black and red circles, erratic hash marks, and multicolored plus signs. Two shelf-like, horizontal appendages have been attached to the painting’s face; the bottom one is bin-like and holds paint-caked stir sticks in bright colors. A thin chain droops from left railing, across the top assemblage, down to the bottom one, back up and finally to the rail on the right. By employing these appendages, Moses undermines the flatness one typically assumes of painting. Aleff (2015) also contrasts the industrial nature of a chain against Moses’s exuberant, gestural brushstrokes.

The work Extrud (2015) combines order with mania, in a surface bounded by grid-like marks that are filled with broad splatters, drips, and dots of bright, colorful paint. “I’m an abstract painter,” Moses has said. “I don’t know what my paintings are. I move around; I’m an explorer.” That desire to work in an active manner resembles the practices of the Abstract Expressionists. Moses is not an Abstract Expressionist, though. His strange, playful paintings look past that era and into the present day. In their explorations, they become strange, forward-looking, and visually intriguing combinations of material and color.

—Stephen Dillon


Ed Moses: Now and Then” is on view at William Turner, Santa Monica, June 6 – Aug. 15, 2015.


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