Not long ago, the painter Ed Moses celebrated his 90th birthday surrounded by old friends at a restaurant in Hollywood. Joining Moses, in addition to a New York Times reporter, were a handful of artist friends, including Ed Bereal and Larry Bell. (Robert Irwin called out sick.) Together, the friends form a group credited with reinventing the L.A. art scene during the 1950s and ’60s. On the occasion of Moses’ birthday, they were being interviewed in part thanks to recent explosion of interest in their work.
“Moses @ 90,” currently on view at William Turner Gallery in Santa Monica, is one of several new shows burnishing the legacies of this loose collection of artists. The coterie tended toward genre-agnostic experimentation and endless iteration in the laboratory of Southern California, far from the oppressive (and, at the time, more market-driven) art landscape on the East Coast.
The show spans Moses’ long career, from his early works—created and shown while the artist was still an MFA student at UCLA—to never-before-seen pieces created in the last few years. Regardless of era, the paintings are powerful and brash, a style that by all accounts mimics the artist’s own life. To this day, he professes a hyper-physical relationship with his canvases. Sometimes, he has said, “I drag the painting, kicking and screaming, into my studio.”
Moses’ practice—which often takes place outdoors, as the artist paints near his Venice studio—is at odds with that of younger painters working in his favorite state. The nonarian is keenly aware of the disparity. “People are more interested in ideas than the romance of painting,” he has said. “I’m still old-fashioned in that sense.”