At 85, Ed Moses continues to be one of the most fascinating and enigmatic figures in contemporary art. His paintings hide nothing, but his techniques often mask as much as they reveal. That is because for most of his 60-year career, the artist has relied almost exclusively on process and accidents: experiments with materials and self-invented tools that remain closely guarded secrets.
This show of ten mostly large-scale works finds Moses in top form, reinvigorating past motifs with fresh methods. The latest is a craquelure achieved by mixing acrylic paint with some unnamed substance that, when manipulated, “carves” spidery skeins into the grounds of his monochromatic canvases. At a distance (or in reproduction) the surfaces look like something Alberto Burri might have created in the early ‘50s when he lived in LA and was sunbaking mud on raw canvas. Moses’ patterns are more variegated; they crack into vivid shards, webs and floral patterns, the latter recalling shapes seen in the stenciled works he exhibited here in 2010. Moses, ever the visual trickster, loves to confuse the eye. Here, the surfaces appear to have been chiseled or imprinted as if with a wood block; at some points the paint actually peels. Prolonged viewing, however, suggests that shrinkage is the real cause. Whatever the case, the process is neither random nor fully controlled, but more like a carefully calibrated randomness if such a thing can be said to exist.
red-on-black roseate patterns; the rest are built of jagged forms, black-on-white. The dueling patterns and colors, combined with the painting’s refractive and reflective properties, induce a visual pas de deux in which foreground and background continuously shift places.