October 9, 2016


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Lot 130: Ed Moses

Lot 130: Ed Moses


Acrylic and shellac on Washi paper
Initialed and dated in graphite lower right sheet; retains L.A. Louver Gallery label verso
Sheet: 32.125" x 24.25"; Frame: 40.875" x 32.875"
LAMA would like to thank the artist for his assistance in cataloguing this work
Estimate: $4,000 - $6,000
Price Realized: $5,000
Inventory Id: 23129

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Ed Moses (b. 1926) has been a major figure in the Los Angeles art world for nearly sixty years. Along with Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston, Ed Kienholz, Craig Kauffman, and others, Moses was a member of the group of artists known as the Cool School, whose exhibitions at the legendary Ferus Gallery in the late 1950s and early '60s virtually created the Los Angeles art scene.

Moses describes his art as that of discovery, and his enduring concerns have been for the materials, surfaces, and process of art-making. Peter Loughrey, Director of Modern Design & Fine Art at LAMA, speaks with the artist about his retrospective at MOCA in the 1990s, his inspirations, and his "secret sauce."

Peter Loughrey: MOCA had a mid-career retrospective of your work in 1996. What impact did this have or what did you learn from that retrospective and how did it affect your work?

Ed Moses: Well, everything plays back on everything as you know.

PL: So there's like a feed back?

EM: So what it does, it reacts to one painting reacting to another in terms of while I'm doing it. So it's an encounter of what I'm doing. Even though it might be a painting that I did 10 years ago, the encounter is reestablished. So how it comes out is all about luck and chance and circumstance. Luck, chance, and circumstance.

PL: The works on paper that we are offering in this sale tend to have a lot of negative space, whereas your paintings tend to be more saturated. Is this intentional or is this just a part of how the material reacts ?

EM: I fill up the surface when I am working with paint, and when I'm doing watercolors and things like that I leave a lot of the paper showing. So it's either filling it up, like "chock full of nuts" kind of idea, or saturation and coagulation. Paint tends to coagulate. Mutation is also a big factor in it.

PL: How so?

EM: Well, things mutate from one thing to another. They start out one thing and then they'll develop or mutate, fragment, or split open in the action of laying the paint on. So one painting mutates to another painting. I like what happened, but I want to continue that motion or kind of laceration of the paper with paint, if it's paper we're talking about. Right?

PL: Yes.

EM: Yeah. So I sort of like to lacerate the paper with paint—in other words it splits it open in the activity of it, so it's all about activity painting for me. The physical planning of paint on paper or canvas or whatever it is, and I'll tend to fill it up with the paint with the brush or pour it on or pour it in, scrape it off, take off, put it on. Painting to me is putting on and taking off. I'm doing some right now, doing that very thing. They sort of look like Morandi's paintings. I love Morandi. Guys that did painting like I do; I like to impact with them. Make them alliances so there is an alliance that is drawn between one painting and another painting and one painter and another painter. So if I happen to like the way a painter works, like Brice Marden, I'll engage in that kind of activity and it will mutate into something else. Right now I'm working with some Morandi paintings. I love his images.

PL: Yeah, me too.

EM: His still-lifes are generally fine models. The model takes on a shape or form and I like the shaping and the form, so that's what painting is about to me. Shaping and form.

PL: Can you talk about some of the techniques that you use to shape and form, and maybe some of the materials like resin or asphaltum? Or I've heard that you have a secret sauce that you use?

EM: (Laughter) Yeah, secret sauce is sort of a joke. When I don't know what to use I call it secret sauce. And people say "What? What secret sauce?" I don't have any secret sauce—it's all discovery, chance, and circumstance.

PL: So is it fair to say your secret sauce is just your sort of primal artistic abilities?

EM: Yeah, primal response to things is secret sauce. I don't know what to use so I just go to Jack in the Box and I'll pour a gallon of that all over. The sauce it puts on Jack in the Box sandwiches, hamburgers.

PL: Really?

EM: I sort of like the surface that it makes, so I call it secret sauce. That's what Jack in the Box calls their stuff, secret sauce. So I like to appropriate those kinds of things as they're kind of twists or humor on it. Is that guy serious? I say "Yeah, he's having secret sauce isn't he?" How lucky is that? You engage in secret sauce when you're paying. Because I never know what I am doing. I'm just chasing a worm. A snake in the ground. He's crawling though the ground looking for an opening and he fills the whole thing. The images fill with this secret sauce. Maybe underground or below the ground. Or outside of the ground. Underground you know. Underground art is outside of the usual.

PL: Would it be fair to say you would like collectors to observe how your work has mutated or evolved over the years?

EM: I don't know if there is that much intelligence that takes place or actual pursuance of artistic nature. It's all luck to me. Luck and chance. You wiggle this way and you wiggle that way and something comes out the other end or squeezes out of the surface.