Ed Moses Retrospective Shows Early Work in L.A.

Ed MosesEd Moses: Drawings from the 1960s and 70s, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), is a retrospective of the renowned contemporary artist and shows his early work on the L.A. art scene. Featuring approximately 80 works, the exhibit exemplifies his growing talent when he was establishing a worldwide reputation.

Many know the 89-year-old artist for his later paintings, but his early work shows his early experimentation with different art tools and techniques. They also demonstrate Moses’ affinity for unusual renderings of geometric objects and flowers, his early mechanical drawing class graphics, and what the artist called his “interest in architecture and my obsessive compulsive nature.”

At the opening for his LACMA show, Moses charmed the audience with tales of his early art years. A pre-med student in his Junior year, he was worrying about whether his grades could still get him into medical school when a friend encouraged him to check out a particular art teacher. The eccentric, bohemian teacher fascinated Moses, so he returned. When the teacher asked the class to do a still life, however, Moses claims he did not know what to do. With the teacher reviewing other students’ work and approaching his, Moses quickly put something on paper. The teacher grabbed his paper, showed the class “’Now here is a real artist’ and from that point on, he ruined my life,” Moses said amidst laughter.

Ed Moses: Drawings from the 1960s and 70s is arranged in rooms by period and influences, such as Piet Mondrian, Navajo blankets and flowers. His rose drawings from 1963 use graphite to fill in behind images of roses. Once he had the basic roses, Moses noted that he “got into the sensation of drawing lines and filling them in.” His repeated uses of floral shapes eventually become more abstracted. His three dimensional pop-up book style renderings of irises in 1968 show his meticulous engineering mind with dotted and dashed fold lines.

Ed Moses
Artist Ed Moses, 89, sits in front of one of his graphite Roses pieces with a silver wash from the 1960s.

The artist then moved into a period using geometric grids as a pattern or framework that was still rendered primarily with graphite. His style morphed when he became interested in Navajo blanket patterns, which he merged with the grid paintings concept. He also began using more diverse materials, including watercolor, works on canvas, resin and more. Each piece represented a hybrid in both style and choice of media.

By the mid-1970s, Moses was interested in abstract and cubist images. He still used a lot of geometric shapes, but the squares and grids were fair more abstract. angled and dramatic than his earlier work. The move to more abstract images shows the early formulation of his painting style post-1970s.

LACMA has partnered the Ed Moses exhibit with a companion one on Drawing in L.A.: The 1960s and 70s. Largely from the museum’s own collection, the exhibition showcases work from about 50 contemporaries of Moses.

LACMA already had several Moses works in their collection, but artist is bequeathing many more. So, eventually, the museum will have the largest repository in the world of Ed Moses pieces, representing more than six decades of work from the Los Angeles County native. In the meantime, the Ed Moses retrospective gives a strong sense of his evolution through his early work and the accompanying exhibition shows what else was happening on the art scene in L.A. during the period Moses rose in prominence. Both exhibits will be at the museum through Aug. 2, 2015.

By Dyanne Weiss

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Photo of Untitled 1972 work by Brian Forrest, Courtesy of Museum Associates/LACMA
Photo of Ed Moses by Dyanne Weiss

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