Ed Moses is closely associated with the sun-drenched environs of Southern California, where he was once central to the burgeoning contemporary art scene of the 1960s. Now, a new show at JD Malat Gallery recasts his work in the capital
By the time he died in 2018, Ed Moses was widely considered one of the most fundamentally “West Coast” artists in America. A Los Angeles native, Moses studied at UCLA before travelling briefly to New York in the late 1950s; there, he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Willem De Kooning and Mark Rothko before returning to LA to transplant postwar abstract expressionism into Southern California. Among other artists such as Larry Bell and Ed Ruscha, Moses would help shape the local art scene for the next 60 years and would form the kernel of a group of California artists known as the “Cool School”, collectively offering a rejoinder to the then New York-centric nucleus of the American contemporary art world. Back then, most of the artists converged around a small but influential gallery on La Cienega Boulevard called the Ferus Gallery; today, Moses’ work numbers among the collections of the Centre Pompidou, Art Institute Of Chicago, MoMA, New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum in New York.
It’s in the vastly different context of wintery, locked-down London – far from the balmy haze of SoCal – that a new exhibition of Moses’ work, called Whiplines, Waterfalls And Worms, has just opened at JD Malat Gallery in Mayfair. In a new behind-the-scenes video highlighting Moses’ work and the upcoming exhibition, gallery owner Jean-David Malat explains how the exhibition came about: Malat went to a Jeff Koons exhibition in New York, where a friend introduced him to Andy Moses, Ed’s son. The two went for dinner after the show, got talking and Malat ended up representing Andy in the UK. Last summer, he had his first UK exhibition at JD Malat Gallery. (Like his father, Andy Moses spent time in New York but returned to LA to work in 2000.) On a subsequent visit to LA, Malat was introduced to Ed Moses’ work by his son and it was a natural next step to show the elder Moses’ work at JD Malat Gallery.
A self-described “mutator” whose style constantly evolved and co-opted new influences, Moses’ work is difficult to describe in anything other than broad terms, but one constant was that he had an enduring fascination with “mark-making” and the physical process of painting. In the works shown at JD Malat Gallery, chaotic swirls and stains of different colours meld on large canvases which, despite their obvious abstraction, can’t help but spur comparisons to waterfalls or other natural phenomena.