Ed Moses: Master of Crazy Wisdom


Ed Moses01

Ed Moses: Master of Crazy Wisdom
Jul 18 – Aug 23, 2018



Crazy wisdom is the wisdom of the saint, the Zen master, the poet the mad scientist, and the fool.
–Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher, and writer

TELLURIDE, COLO­ – Master of Crazy Wisdom, an exhibition of 22 paintings by the late painter Ed Moses will be on view at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art from July 18–August 23. The exhibition is a rare opportunity to view recent bodies of work made in the last years of the artist’s life. As part of the “Cool School” group of artists that showed at Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles in the 1950s and 60s (the group also included Ed Ruscha, Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, Edward Kienholz, John Altoon, Ken Price, and Billy Al Bengston), Moses was a pivotal figure in the early growth of the Los Angeles art scene. He is known for adapting abstract expressionism to a West Coast sensibility, often blending expressionistic brushwork with hard edge geometry.

During his life, Moses became increasingly interested in Eastern philosophies, and attended meditation retreats. On one such retreat with the Shambhala sect of Buddhism, when asked to sit still and upright for hours at a time, participants were hit with a stick if their postures began to slouch. After being reprimanded several times by a woman with a stick, Moses finally screamed out amidst a room of silent meditators: “You touch me with that fucking stick one more time, I’m going to break all your fingers!” Shortly after, Moses was asked to come speak with the Buddhist Master Chögyam Trungpa, who told Moses: “In this sect of Buddhism there is this thing called crazy wisdom. I think Ed, you are the master of crazy wisdom.”

It was a wild blend of rebelliousness, wise distance, and brutal honesty that made Moses such an avid artist, eternally uncovering new ways to paint. “My journey is a non-journey,” Ed explained. Steadfastly, he showed up to his studio day after day in search of what came next. Moses often talked about the impulse that we all share, as humans, to leave a mark; cavemen left handprints on cave walls, and Ed Moses faithfully left marks on canvas, constantly evolving his notion of what those marks could be. What he leaves us with is his seemingly effortless and unique style—each painting a totem on Moses’ illuminating non-journey.

Ashley Hayward, curator of the exhibition, describes Moses' work in the last years of the artist's life: “Hesitation is abandoned and replaced with a deep well of inspiration and purity of process. His final works are embedded with a lifetime of experience, passion and masterful application.” Indeed the works on view are ripe with an assuredness; each frenetic line houses worlds of knowledge and amassed energy. Grid Yes (2015) is emblematic of Moses’ disregard for the distinctions between geometric abstraction and non-representational abstraction, preferring instead the complex layering of the two. Wanting to avoid the confines of the square page, his grids are shifted to a 45-degree angle, allowing their structure to spill freely off the picture plane. His paintings are at once languid and frenetically active. In Zip #2 (2017), loose, watery pools of pigment blend together leisurely while rainbow-hued masses traverse the canvas, becoming voluminous and expansive.

This dual mode in his art making was second nature for Moses in much the same way that the yang of his studio work and the yin of his philosophical pursuits were inseparable. Art critic David Pagel described him as “unrestricted id flowing out there in the world.” The artist continued to fearlessly charge the fray, endlessly experimenting, discovering. His generosity, determination, focus, and tireless dedication to innovation will surely continue to stand as a timeless marker for countless generations of artists to come. As a master of crazy wisdom, Ed’s work and practice emulates the wise embracing of our own dualities and nuanced selves: saints, masters, poets, mad scientists and fools.

Ed Moses has exhibited internationally, and has had retrospective exhibitions at both Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1976) and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1996). In addition to the Ferus Gallery, Moses exhibited widely in Los Angeles, showing with notable galleries such as the Mizuno Gallery, L.A. Louver, and Gagosian Gallery among others. Moses’ works belong to many permanent collections including Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Moses taught at UC Irvine from 1968 to 1972 and UCLA from 1975 to 1976, as well as Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Cal State Bakersfield, and Cal State Long Beach. He won a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1976 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1984.

There will be an exhibition opening reception on July 19 from 5 P.M.-7 P.M. Gallery owner Ashley Hayward will be on hand to share the vision for the show and answer questions about Moses’ life and career. Additional events include an art walk, organized by Telluride Arts District, that will take place on August 2 from 5 P.M.-8 P.M.