Los Angeles

Ed Moses

Mizuno Gallery

The problem of constructing an environment in more traditional formalist terms (that is, letting it look like “art”—drawing, painting, sculpture), without the conveniences of architectural purity or storekeeper allusionism, is a hard row to hoe and (if that’s what he’s about), Ed Moses has succeeded nicely. Moses is an underrated artist, admired most by a group of his more publicized peers: he’s stuck to an uncompromised pictorialism, physical austerity, and a persistent reverence for the soul of Abstract Expressionism, while everyone else has gone their own mirror-finish way. (Moses was perfunctorily represented in the PAM’s opening “West Coast” show, but his work, a drawing, was typically ambivalently displayed; Moses will appear in the index, but not on the cover.) The work at Mizuno is an alteration of the gallery itself utilizing both addition and subtraction. The inside ceiling is removed, allowing sunlight to slip through the planking and fall in diagonal striations to the floor. The gallery walls above the twelve-foot mark have been stripped down to the institutional green underpinning. On each wall Moses has constructed a large rectangular panel of two-by-fours and building board, and drawn on the surface of each with colored pencil grids and taped seams. A similar 8 by 20-foot slab lies in the middle of the floor, draped in raw duck cloth. And, in the hallway, there are rolls of canvas and plastic and, hung, one framed drawing. The piece is difficult to judge because I don’t quite know whether to take it as expanded painting (which, from the chronology of Moses’ work, it is), or an altered, impoverished room, which I have a hunch Moses thinks it is. Whatever, its attendant effects—the workshop atmosphere with the smell of lumber, canvas and white paint, the feeling of “closeness” to its container (the gallery) and the overall airiness of the piece—are supportive on a level deeper than easy decoration. What convinces me of its quality is its thorough ambivalence and balance: it is particular, yet environ-mental, handmade yet neutralized, painterly (a quality considered reactionary or cloying in current art), yet austere. Although, in the end, it is “balanced,” I can’t quite figure it all, which is reason enough to look again, which is reason enough for me, too, to admire it.

Peter Plagens