New York

Ed Moses

André Emmerich Gallery – Uptown

Ed Moses is now painting diagonal stripes on laminated tissue paper in a way that equates the surface—pigment and rhoplex—with its support; the paper is about as thick as the painted skin it bears. Fragility, one of the most immediately apparent properties of such a work as Coyote, 1973–74, is as much a physical condition of the piece as it’s a feature attributed to it by color or line.

The physical fragility of these works seems important because of, not despite, their involvement with the terminology of ’60s modernism. Specifically, they refer to Morris Louis and to the recent work of Frank Stella. Like Louis, who identified the canvas—the literal support—with the picture plane, through stained color that uses the weave of the canvas to impose a planar simultaneity that acts against the intensive bias—toward recession and progression—of individual colors, Moses uses rhoplex to locate color within the surface of the painting. Like the recent work of Stella, these pieces of Moses suggest a physical commonality and interaction between surface and support. Like Stella, Moses has developed a strategy that depends on equating the shallow space of modernism with a physical interpretation of the idea. Hence the equality of the thickness of the paper and the paint in these works, an equality which provides a kind of internal model for the reflexiveness between the space of the painting and that of its viewer. This is reinforced by Moses’ reliance on diagonal striation, which communicates a sense of movement that complements the fragility—compared to canvas, the impermanence—of the support. Louis had to stretch his canvases in order that the surface might be set in tension with the picture plane, which, seen as a product of the perimeter, is thereby also seen as the product of an equation of drawing with physical specification. Moses locates the drawing within the work—the striation—in order to abandon the stretcher and locate the support, not at the edge, but as an underlying presence throughout the work. Moses seems most like Stella in that he seems to be a painter who’s been able to revise the vocabulary of a certain sort of ’60s painting in response to an increased awareness of the importance of literal signification to painting and the other arts.

And it’s literal signification that links this new work of Moses to the work he made in the past. His use of paper is of critical importance in that it refers to the notion of drawing as a resource which has a wider range of object reference than painting. Moses’ employment of drawing’s conventional support suggests that he’s looking to it now to provide the means for a transition from the interest in surface that characterized that work to an employment of surface which might—possibly in a way that’s responsive to Agnes Martin—involve a more complicated comment on pictorial-ism per se. To some degree, Moses retains the funky look of West Coast art while adopting an Atlantic, analytic involvement with pictorial morphology.

––Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe