On Tuesday, I paid homage to “Moses at 90.” That’s Ed Moses, an early member of the West Coast “Cool School” whose work first was shown in 1958 at the legendary Ferus Gallery in Venice. After 60 years of prolific “mark-making” he’s still busy working to this day at his Venice studio compound.
Moses is being honored at the William Turner Gallery with an expansive career survey, including 1950s drawings, rose and patterned graphite drawings from the 1960s, through his signature abstract cross-hatch paintings of the 1990s and on to the some of the most exquisitely experimental late stage works, including patterned cutout panels, funhouse-style mirrors and “crackle” paintings.
It’s a truly beautiful show, one requiring not just the Turner Gallery but the entire former Santa Monica Museum of Art, and it’s more than deserving of the massive space. My heart melts a little more every time I see the “crackle” works – the surfaces breaking open, reminiscent of deserts and earthquakes and to me, a profound commentary on aging.
A quote from Moses explains his philosophy and process: “My thought is that the artist functions in a tribal context and he is the shaman … The shamans were the interpreters of the unknown, they reacted to the unknown with symbols and objects and wall painting. And that’s where it all came from. That’s where I came from, but when you’re a young man, you don’t know that.”
I think he’s more than proven what he does know and what he’s still searching for through the metaphysical power of painting.
Moses at 90 continues through June 25 at William Turner Gallery, Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. www.williamturnergallery.com.
Robert Graham Studio
You see his sculpture everywhere: the Dance Gate at the Music Center, the great bronze doors at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels, at the 1984 L.A. Olympics – Robert Graham was another Venice legend. We lost him in 2008, and it wasn’t too long after that his Venice studio moved to Culver City.
That’s where his son, Steven, who collaborated with his father on many of his most renowned projects, maintains his legacy and works to catalog his prolific output. Not just the beautiful torsos, the female nudes, the half-in, half-out of the wall figures, but little known large-format Polaroid and Iris print photos.
Plus there are maquettes (models) of the public works like the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in D.C., complete with wheelchair; the 24-foot long, 8,000-pound suspended forearm and fist of Joe Louis (City of Detroit) and several Graham-designed awards and medals that Steven still produces for The National Endowment for the Arts and The California Hall of Fame, among others.
But it’s a living legacy, hence the exhibition title, “Aftermath.” In 1992, Graham set up a workshop to hire, pay, and train a group of gang-related adults to produce a series of 3,500 small bronze works (The MOCA Torso) over a 3-year period to help raise money for MOCA.
Since then, Juan Carlos Munoz Hernandez (aka Heaven) has continued to work as a Graham studio assistant and creates original works at his own Venice studio.
Heaven’s street artist friends came to be known as K2S and included Gajin Fujita, Alex “Defer” Kizu, Joe “Prime” Reza and Big Sleeps. He and they are represented on the studio’s walls, and Jim McHugh, who documented the Torso project, photographed the artists. And of course, there are sketches and sculptures by Robert Graham, many never seen before.
This little known thread of L.A.’s art history runs through the Robert Graham Studio, located at 5856 West Adams Blvd. in Culver City. Visit www.robertgraham-artist.com. “Aftermath” is on view through the end of June. (310) 399-5374.
The “Other” Artwalk
On Sunday, May 15, the weekend before the Venice Art Walk – that helps fund the Venice Family Clinic – the Venice-based, artist-run coalition known as Artblock will hold its sixth annual Free Open Studio Tour, featuring 70 artists and special exhibits from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Established and emerging artists bring you into their creative spaces. The purpose is both to celebrate the storied artistic heritage of Venice, and to highlight a diverse neighborhood facing rapid gentrification and a loss of studio space.
There’ll be paintings, sculpture, woodworks, works on paper, jewelry, pottery, glassware, photography, drawings, prints and even trashed paper cup art. Artists include Mary Fama and Francisco Letelier, Amy Kaps and Aurelia Dumont, John Mooney, Juan Carlos Munoz Hernandez, Jean Edelstein, Pamela Weir-Quiton and many more.
Pick up your route map at 4th and Sunset Ave. on May 15; details and images of artists’ work can be found here: www.veniceartblock.com/#prettyPhoto.
So You Think You Can Paint?
A few weeks back I tried my hand at painting with a glass of wine standing next to my brushes and paints.
A room full of strangers, friends, couples and others watched as a teacher offered group instruction and techniques on how to paint. There’s a sample painting at the head of the room, and the teacher shows you, by example, how to recreate it, as you follow along, paying attention or ignoring the instruction at your peril. Love it or hate it, you’ll go home the results of your efforts.
“Paint-and-drink” events seem to have become a growth industry and the one I attended, “It’s Winey Art” was fun and local (wine, paint, brushes, canvas included!).
They’re regularly held at Earth, Wind and Flour in Santa Monica and you can attend the next one on Friday, May 13 (Friday the 13th, what could go wrong?) or Friday, May 27. Get details and tickets here: www.itswineyart.com. And yes, you can BYOB!
Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also written features and reviews for various print and online publications.