Ed Moses is sitting in the middle of Montana Avenue's latest

home-furnishings boutique, Living by Lynne Leventen, a menagerie of

candles, chandeliers and wall art. He's observing his recently installed

painting, which he calls The Poet and the Jabberwocky.


“painting” is really a series of paintings: six 4-foot-by-8-foot

plywood panels covered with paint and sprayed fabric. Each panel has its

own pattern. One is filled with images of African wildlife from the

Serengeti, one contains fragments of your great-aunt's floral-themed

wallpaper, another has the machine-honed pattern of an elegant toile,

and one defies any rational reason to be grouped with the others. It's a

sheet filled with reflective Plexiglas, sort of a fun-house mirror (the

kind that renders your torso long and your legs stumps). Moses thinks

it's more “like Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass.”


what inspires his artistic expression, Moses snaps back, “There are no

preconceived ideas … and don't call me an artist!” OK, Ed. What

exactly are you, then?

“I'm a painter. An artist can be a lot of things.”

How does he create his paintings? For his answer, he lashes out, “I don't create. … There is only ONE Creator.”

Oh, are you religious, then? “No!” Atheist? “No!”

Deep breath.


have a theory about the universe, though,” he says. “Scientists talk

about the big bang theory, an explosion that occurred billions of years

ago that created the universe. What if the process is really more of a

'folding in' instead of a blowing up, and the sun and the stars and the

planets and all of humanity are part of the ingredients that were folded

in over time?”

It is not a stretch to think of Moses as a

philosopher. His observations are brilliant at times, at times bizarre,

sometimes contradictory. But then Moses says he likes going off in

different directions. His works often are representative of “three or

four notions occurring at the same time.” His art is a collection of

“mutations” — one series of paintings morphing into another.


is enjoying a special moment in the spotlight these days as one of the

artists featured in Pacific Standard Time, a citywide celebration of Los

Angeles art from 1945 to 1980. A new generation is discovering Moses,

trying to understand him.

He describes himself as a “painter in

process.” His pieces involve multiple treatments: the selection and

preparation of painting surfaces (canvas or plywood); the assemblage of

the media (paint, fabric, stenciled wood cutouts, spray guns [for

paint], etc.), and ultimately the installation of the painting itself.


may have between five and eight pieces in progress at a time, each

attempt different from the last. He destroys up to 200 pieces a year.

It's all part of the process.

Most of Moses' work is done at his

home in Venice, an island in a sea of 1950s and '60s bungalows. Three

contiguous parcels are fenced off from neighbors and filled with

tropical flora. His home is minimalist: a simple, wood-framed building

with plywood walls and skylights overhead. The vibe is World War II

South Pacific postmodern.

He has two “viewing rooms,” barnlike

structures he handcrafted some 30 years ago. A series of paintings with

geometric shapes defined by lines fills one of the studio walls. They

are paintings Moses says have been “inhabited by the ghosts of Mondrian

and Van Doesburg.”

On the wall opposite the geometric pieces is a

series of panels with images that appear three-dimensional. One panel

has Moses' signature stencil cutout suspended above the surface. The

other panels give only the illusion of 3-D, a sort of riddle or puzzle.

Moses describes his work as either “two-dimensional” or

“four-dimensional.” Four? Really?

Turns out the fourth dimension is time.


discussion of form and function somehow segues back to the esoteric:

“My work is phenomena uninflected by interpretation.” Moses is hunched

over a table with some of his paintings, which are the products of what

he refers to as “crackling.” (The paintings are left to dry in the sun,

which produces fissures, or cracks.)

Moses shifts gears seamlessly

to observe, “Man's endless pursuit of money will bring it all down.”

(This from a painter whose pieces have fetched prices in the hundreds of

thousands of dollars.) There is a bit of fatalism in his tone. Not

surprising, then, is his interest in Jorge Luis Borges, who once wrote,

“Whoever reads the hourglass sees the dissolution of an empire.”

As egocentric as he may seem, Moses is by no means arrogant. He's quite endearing to those who appreciate him.

“I always had to be the guy,” he says.


at the store on Montana, he gets personal. “When I was a boy in third

grade, I was having trouble keeping up in school. My mother had me take

an IQ exam. … Let's just say I wasn't Albert Einstein.”

Turns out, he was slightly dyslexic and suffered from attention deficit disorder. But somehow he overcame these deficiencies.


surprisingly, his eye for composition and form extends well beyond his

paintings. He is happiest surrounded by women. At 85, he is something of

a chick magnet. The stories of his conquests are legendary. While

interning at the studios back in the day, Moses “spotted this cute

little derriere.” Quickening his pace, he caught up to find the “cute

little butt belonged to Marilyn Monroe.”

As with his art, he leaves the rest of the story to your imagination.

For more on Moses check out his oral history for L.A. Weekly in our Pacific Standard Time preview issue.

Follow @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter.

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