Ed Moses at Rebecca's Restaurant

Part of the post-war Southern California art scene, Ed Moses was granted the opportunity in the 1980s to be built directly into the firmament of the era's easy, breezy Venice Beach set. In 1983, restaurant owner Bruce Marder commissioned Frank Gehry to design Rebecca's, the would-be famous nouvelle Mexican eatery on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Venice Boulevard frequented by celebrity clientele. Gehry, in turn, tapped several Los Angeles artists to add their touch to the restaurant, which the the New York Times lauded as a "tour de force" of interior design. Rebecca's boasted front doors designed by Tony Berlant, a black velvet interior painting by Peter Alexander, and outrageous aquatic creatures by Gehry himself. For his part, Moses contributed his Tarantula window, which was installed inside, as well as its partner metal Tarantula panel that ornamented the building's exterior. Though Rebecca's was demolished in 1998, Moses's singular contributions remain as artifacts of that beloved institution and works in their own right. 

Frank Gehry crocodile inside Rebecca's

Rebecca's, interior

Ed Moses 1926–2018

Los Angeles painter Ed Moses was among the core artists associated with Ferus Gallery and the southern California “Cool School” that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s. His protean painting style ranged from early investigations of Abstract Expressionism to the grid paintings developed in the 1970s to the later “Crackle Paintings.”

Moses was born on a boat sailing from Hawaii to Long Beach, the city where he would spend much of his early life. After dropping out of high school in favor of the Naval Medical Corps and unsuccessfully pursuing the pre-med program at Long Beach City College, Moses eventually enrolled in art classes and received his Master of Fine Arts from UCLA. The painter Craig Kaufmann was a fellow UCLA classmate and introduced Moses to Walter Hopps and Ed Keinholz, the proprietors of the new but influential Ferus. Moses unconventionally opted to mount his thesis exhibition as a solo show at Ferus, which featured Abstract Expressionist canvases in the manner of Arshile Gorky.

Moses aimed to explore the parameters and possibilities of color, structure, and technique in all of his various approaches to painting. He began working with diagonal and perpendicular lines in the 1970s, creating grid-like works that recalled a more painterly Mondrian. This work evolved in the 1980s to include what the artist called “apparitions” and “cloud covers,” wherein thin, indeterminate areas of paint covered the canvas. In 2012, Moses began working on his “Crackle Paintings,” canvases that he layered with color and then punched with his elbow or first to create fissures and cracks.

Today, works by Ed Moses are held in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.

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