A Coastal Conversation in Abstraction: Ed Moses and John Zinsser at Peter Blake Gallery

Los Angeles abstract painter Ed Moses is adamant about his art, and his role in its creation. He once proclaimed: “I’m a painter. I’m not an artist, and I don’t create things.” While abstract painting has often been understood as an expression of the artist’s inner self, Moses doesn’t ascribe to this theory. “I’m an explorer, I’m trying to discover things, discover the phenomenal world by examining it.” In a similar way, New York artist John Zinsser rejects commonly accepted tenets of the abstract artist; for him, his primary subject—and even perhaps, inspiration—is the paint itself. At Peter Blake Gallery in Laguna Beach, the two are shown side-by-side in two solo exhibitions, providing an unexpected yet refreshing bicoastal conversation on abstraction.

Moses’ planar paintings range in imagery and technique, but they maintain a flat and semi- or non-representational style. A prolific West Coast artist for nearly six decades, Moses began his career as an original member of the iconic Ferus Gallery, which was founded in L.A. in 1957. In his new body of work at Peter Blake, Moses presents his West Coast aesthetic in vibrant paintings composed of wide brushstrokes, quick, gestural movements, and washes of paint in a limited palette of primary colors and inky black.

In contrast, Zinsser’s abstractions reflect a calculated process in which the artist has carefully and intentionally laid thick lines and swathes of paint to create gridded networks or clusters of paint and texture. An emphasis on the materiality of paint itself is enhanced by monochromatic compositions in a varied range of colors, from creamy white to metallic gold and fiery orange. Zinsser has been a devotee of postwar Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism for decades. His works reflect visions of the city from a very distinct angle. “I have always been attracted to colors as they exist in the world, rather than making imitative color,” Zinsser once explained. “All of these colors have associations to observed experience—a garage door, the wall of a warehouse, the side of a truck.”

Looking at their works side-by-side, one can’t help but perceive a vibrant, intriguing, and divergent dialogue. Take for example, Zinsser’s minimal white Striking Distance, and Moses’ dark, lively Axe 6. Both works signal the artist’s hand, and conjure a vision of the artist at work, but Zinsser presents a careful study of the build-up and movement of paint, whereas Moses presents an instinctive, quick discourse that leaves rapid swathes of paint bleeding into bare canvas.

—Melissa Smith

Ed Moses and John Zinsser” is on view at Peter Blake Gallery, Laguna Beach, Sept. 20th–Oct. 25th, 2014

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