‘Cool School’ Artist Ed Moses’s Abstract Paintings Bring Bright California Color to London in a New Gallery Show

The show was organized with help from the artist’s son Andy Moses.

Ed Moses, ≤i>Ocnaf≤/i> (2008). Courtesy of JD Malat.
Ed Moses, Edward #2(2008). Courtesy of JD Malat.

The quintessentially Californian artist Ed Moses deemed himself “a mutator.” The moniker was intended to describe his ever-evolving style, but it also captures something of the semi-psychedelic spirit Moses brought to his energetic, boldly colorful paintings for decades, until his death in 2018.

Moses was born in Long Beach, California, in 1926, and studied at the University of California, Los Angeles, before emerging as one of the most influential artists in the postwar West Coast art scene, which winked at its New York counterpart with a rascally sense of wit and fun.

Moses showed with Los Angeles’s legendary Ferus Gallery, founded by Walter Hopps and Ed Kienholz, and known for showing “Cool School” artists Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Ed Ruscha, and Ken Price, among others. 

Ed Moses, Alping (2007). Courtesy of JD Malat.

Ed Moses, Alping (2007). Courtesy of JD Malat.

Now, a wintery, locked-down London is getting a jolt of Moses’s decidedly West Coast abstractions in the form of the new exhibition “Whiplines, Waterfalls and Worms,” on view at Mayfair’s JD Malat Gallery.

With works made during the last two decades of the artist’s life, the exhibition is a whirlwind of color and mark-making. Moses’s pigments are applied with a characteristic sense of urgency and awe.

Ed Moses, ≤i>Ocnaf≤/i> (2008). Courtesy of JD Malat.

Ed Moses, Ocnaf (2008). Courtesy of JD Malat.

 

As the exhibition title suggests, these abstract works bring to mind certain effects of nature. With pulsating blacks and red, Ocnaf (2008) reads like the blaze of a forest fire, while Alping (2007) offers a high energy collision between white and blues—like snow or the foam of surf hitting a bright blue sky. Another work, Cuarto Porto, is like lava. 

“Moses took inspiration from various sources, such as Buddhism, the open spaces of his Venice, California, studio as well as what he called, his daily ‘habit’ of painting,” said the gallery in a statement. Moses’s tools, too, were unconventional: mops, hoses, and rubber scrapers all played a part.  

Ed Moses, Cuatro Porto (2002). Courtesy of JD Malat.

Ed Moses, Cuatro Porto (2002). Courtesy of JD Malat.

Andy Moses, the artist’s son, helped assemble the London exhibition. An artist himself, Andy had his first UK exhibition with JD Malat last year. A video accompanying the show details how it came together between the artist and the gallery.

In the middle of a long winter, the show is a startling reminder of nature’s awesome energy. 

Whiplines, Waterfalls And Worms” is on view at JD Malat through March 10, 2021. A virtual tour of the exhibition is available here.


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