Considered one of the foremost postwar abstract painters in the Southern California scene, working alongside a generation of artists known as the “cool school,” Ed Moses was engaged in what he saw as a continual process of discovery for more than half a century. As he described, “Painting is like discovery, trying this, trying that, bending this, twirling that, and then every once in awhile it goes bing!” His compositions include Braque-inspired semi-representational scenes, abstract allover patterns, color fields and hard-edged geometric shapes. In the catalog of Moses’ 1996 retrospective exhibition of paintings and drawings at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art, critic John Yau wrote, “The diversity he has achieved is unparalleled among contemporary abstract artists. And within this diversity is an emotional range that is also unparalleled.” For Moses, however, success was secondary to the pleasure of painting itself.
Moses was a spiritual descendant of the Abstract Expressionists and a student of Buddhism who meditated daily and blazed his own trail to aesthetic truth. Working with unconventional materials and tools, including mops, hoses, and rubber scrapers, he painted behind his house in Venice, where he lived for more than 30 years, or on an open-air concrete slab and in a barn-like studio. As his career evolved, he produced intricately crafted diagonal grids as well as splashy gestural works.
“My thought is that the artist functions in a tribal context, that he is the shaman. When the urban life came in, tribes no longer existed ... but there was still a genetic core of shamans, of magic men, broken loose and genetically floating around. And when they had this gene, they shook the rattles. The shamans were the interpreters of the unknown, they reacted to the unknown with symbols and objects and wall painting. And that’s where it all came from. That’s where I came from, but when you’re a young man you don’t know that.” -Ed Moses
Accolades + Collections
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY