Interview with Artist Ed Moses
Ed Moses has been a central figure in the Los Angeles art scene for almost 60 years. He first exhibited in 1949 and was part of the original group of artists from the Ferus Gallery in 1957.
Over the span of Moses’ prominent career his work has been in exhibitions around the world, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Menil Collection, the Museum of Modern Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, and many more.
Laura Mylott Manning: Hi Ed, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me today; it is truly a pleasure and an honor. You have been an integral part of the Southern California art scene since the early 1960’s. Please discuss your experience in the beginning of your career.
Ed Moses: I’m glad to do it. Thank you for calling. Sure, my early years started with the Ferus Gallery, which was the gallery at the time. Irving Blum became the director and it’s where Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Ed Ruscha and Bob Irwin all began their illustrious careers. We were all good friends and we hung out and competed with each other. We thought we were the most formative painters and that New York was back in the woods. As naive as that was, that’s what we believed.
LMM: Are you from Southern California originally?
EM: Yes, I was born on a ship sailing to Long Beach in 1926 from Hawaii. I was in the earthquake of Long Beach in 1933. It was a six-point earthquake and the epicenter was in Compton. I remember driving around with my neighbors that lived adjacent to us. We were looking at the streets that were all cracked open and apartment buildings with sides that had fallen off. You could see into people’s kitchens or dining rooms or wherever was exposed. I remember my mother carrying me down the hallway to the living room where there was a large bay window and as you looked out the window you could see the high school crumbling to the ground and all the dust coming up. It was quite a sight.
LMM: That’s a powerful story; did witnessing the destruction caused by the earthquake at a young age have an influence on the type of mark making you use in your paintings?
EM: Yes, chaos. I like to engage in chaos. At first, I liked everything to be vertical and horizontal and controlled. And then I learned to play with being out of control. I was a draftsman for a while. I studied mechanical drawing and drafting and I worked at Douglas Aircraft. I liked the idea of controlling the vertical and the horizontal line, which later on I made grids out of but rotated the grids by 45 degrees. So it gave it a kind of energy of defiance – a plane is presented but it’s rotated 45 degrees.
LMM: How did you meet Alan Shaffer and how did the idea of working on a collaborative project come about?
EM: I met Alan on the scene in L.A. I like Alan a lot and we became good friends. He came up with the idea to get all the portraits that he could find of me that he photographed. We picked out 12 portraits and had them transferred onto a lightweight canvas that would accept acrylic and oil paint. Once the portraits were printed onto the canvas, Alan said ‘now why don’t you paint over the printed portraits of you.’ I said, ‘sold!’ I like to play with any possibility. So I painted over the portraits, kind of willy-nilly. I used a wide, four-inch brush to paint all over. And then we stretched the canvases and put them up on the walls. People seemed to like the fact that I painted on my own portrait.
LMM: Did each specific portrait have an influence on how you painted?
EM: Oh sure, I responded to what was there. I painted in and out of the areas that the portraits exist, so the acrylic paint would take right on it. And they looked pretty good. It was a great exhibition with a fabulous turnout. People even bought some of them, which is a nice verification.
LMM: Researching your work and philosophies on making art has been filled with great surprises. I really enjoy how your art takes twists and turns in order for you to express yourself in the most effective ways. Please discuss your philosophies on making artwork.
EM: Well, I like to change as the situation suggests to another kind of collaboration with myself using work that I’ve done previously. So I sort of variegated a situation or deviated from one situation to another, establishing a new ground plane, a new kind of imagery for me, sometimes I looked at my work and I didn’t see anyone else doing it. But there were people that did similar things that I have, for example, Brice Marden, who I think is one of the great artists of the 20th century.
I’m obsessed with being a painter. I have to paint every day. I was initiated into it when I was very young. My aunt used to visit my mother every afternoon. I was in my crib and they didn’t hear any sounds, so they came in to see what I was doing. I had some baby turds in my hand and I was drawing all over the wall and my aunt said, ‘That kid’s going to be an artist.’ I think it all goes back to that early medium of intuitively moving a material. Being an artist is about leaving marks where you have been. In my current work, I make snake forms that meander over the canvas. I use a wide brush and a dish mop to make undulating shapes by drawing it across much like a caterpillar does when he crawls across the surface leaving a track of where he has been. I like to leave tracks of where I’ve been in this way. Since I’m not a caterpillar, I can’t do it their way but I’ll do it my way.
LMM: It’s interesting what you said about appropriating from your own work in previous projects to blend it with whatever is next.
EM: Yes, I overlay it. It’s a lot of layering. So if I’m not happy with this layer I will put another layer. That’s where I got the idea of the grids overlapping but rotating, not reinforcing the plane as it exists but rotating it, so there is no fixed position. It’s fixed by the position of the brush strokes or the imagery.
LMM: Have you worked on any collaborative projects previous to the one with Alan? And would you consider doing a second series?
EM: This is the only project where I’ve collaborated to make a painting or a work on a two-dimensional plane. Absolutely, I would consider working on a second series.
LMM: What’s next on your horizon?
EM: Now, I’m playing around with making holes in the planes. I’m working with wood and cutting out these head shapes with their profiles looking in all different directions. I’m also working on the L.A. River Project. Frank Gehry is one of the lead architects on it. I’m trying to figure out how to tackle the project. It is like a jigsaw puzzle. You lay all the parts out and you pick up different shapes and tones and start arranging the puzzle and the pieces start fitting together.
LMM: Well said. Thank you, Ed.
Interview with Photographer Alan Shaffer
Alan Shaffer is a long-time L.A. based photographer specializing in portraiture, documenting artwork and gallery exhibitions. Please follow this link for additional information: http://shafferphoto.com/shafferphoto.com/Home.html
LMM: Hi Alan, thank you for participating in this interview. Please tell us more about yourself and your long-time L.A. based photography practice.
AS: Soon after graduating from Art Center College of Design in 1980, I moved from Pasadena into a studio on Rose Avenue in Venice. In the space two doors east was Terry O’Shea, an artist’s artist who I met my first week there. He attended Chouinard Art Institute in the same era as Larry Bell, Ed Ruscha, Boyd Elder, Ron Cooper, and Jim Ganzer. His space was a gathering point. Terry took me under his wing introducing me to his cohorts, colleagues, and the cast of characters. He dragged me to openings, dinners, and studios. It was a blast.
My training was in advertising and out of school I was assisting for numerous other shooters before I went off on my own. I had little to no knowledge of the fine art world. The collective crew I met at O’Shea’s denigrated me for working commercially until I stood up to them, proved myself and was accepted. I also observed how their work was being photographed and showed them a better way of lighting that brought out the texture of their paint. The money I was making shooting for ad agencies enabled me to shoot the fine art crowd’s work for expenses only or by trading fees for pieces.
LMM: You have known Ed Moses for over 35 years, going back to the seminal era of Southern California in the 1960’s. Share with us how you first met Ed and a little bit about your friendship over the years.
AS: I met Ed through the collective crowd at lunch; the preferred place to eat then was West Beach Café, with wunderkind chef Bruce Marder at the helm. The first real portrait I did of Ed was just before his show at MOCA somewhere in the 1990’s. I was doing public service work for a group in Venice and Ed was the featured artist for the event. His assistant then was Hope Alexander, Peter Alexander’s daughter. She let me in early to set up and light. Ed loved to intimidate photographers; he would constantly be in motion to be blurred. I set up and put a mark on the floor where I wanted him to stand.
When he arrived, I quickly directed him to the mark yelled ‘stay’ and immediately started shooting. When he attempted to veer off, I forced him back. I banged off two rolls of 120, 24 frames, in about three minutes and said ‘Ok, we’re done.’ I caught his attention.
For the last roughly 15 years or so, I’ve been shooting Ed’s work. It’s in this time frame that we’ve grown closer. We started doing BBQ’s at his place for anywhere from 20-50 friends and I cooked. We hit openings, have dinner, I chauffeur him to talks, museums and we just hang out and banter. By gaining his trust, I’m allowed access to shoot during moments few, if any witness. However, I direct him in every frame; my style and philosophy of portraiture are to direct by misdirecting.
LMM: I’ve enjoyed learning about your collaboration, which incorporates your portraits of Ed with his paintings. What sparked the idea of working on a project together? Please discuss the concept for the collaboration and the work in further detail.
AS: In May of 2015, Ed was having a show of his work from the 1960’s and 1970’s at LACMA. I’d been helping out where needed for the previous two years for the show. Sometime around six or so months before, I was thinking about all the shots I have of him and decided to try and get a gallery show during his museum show. Most galleries set their programs up well in advance, so I was playing off who I knew that exhibits photography and who I’d helped out over the years, hoping there was a cancellation or a window. However, that didn’t pan out, the bites I had from a couple of dealers just weren’t giving me a warm and fuzzy feeling. I was talking about the situation with Woods Davy, a sculptor buddy, and his wife Kathleen. He offered to speak with his dealer, Craig Krull about a show. We met, he bit and I got a warm and fuzzy feeling.
The initial concept for the collaboration was to juxtapose a portrait with a canvas of the same date (from Ed’s body of work.) During a discussion with Craig he showed me a collaboration George Herms created with a photographer. That’s when the concept of printing the portraits on canvas and painting over and around was hatched. I approached Ed with the idea and we started running with it.
LMM: As Ed’s portrait photographer you must have numerous catalogs of pictures. What was involved in the process of narrowing down all the images to the final twelve portraits selected?
AS: Yes, I could do several books just on the frames I have of Ed. What I look for when editing portraits is a gut reaction. I try to look at each frame as if I were a child and gauge my response. So, I gathered all the images, both film and digital, and narrowed them down to around 150 of my favorites. From there I first showed them to Craig for his opinion, we trashed a bunch, then worked with Ed for the final selections.
LMM: What was your favorite part of working on this project and would you embark upon another collaboration?
AS: It’s always fun to trade ideas and concepts with Ed. Even in his 90’s he paints five to seven days a week and never stops challenging himself or the norms. I think it must be kind of weird to paint-over a portrait of oneself, but we’ve never discussed that. At one point I wanted to witness him painting the pieces but I let that go, trusting I’d be blown away by whatever he came up with.
I have a rather extensive catalog of what I call the ‘Neighborhood Numbnuts’ for over three decades. They include Doug Edge, Lita Albuquerque, Larry Bell, Edith Baumann, Robbie Conal, Karen Carson, Lucas Reiner, Billy Al Bengston, Laddie John Dill, Woods Davy, Jennifer Celio, Barbara Schwan, Stas Orlovski, Ned Evans, Andy Moses, Kelly Berg, Eric Orr, Kenny Price, Tony Berlant, George Herms, Jim Doolin, Ron Griffin, Greg Colson, Betty Gold, Amir Fallah, Jim Ganzer, Alejandro Gehry, Craig Kauffman, Ron Cooper, Kenny Harris, Jeremy Kidd, Astrid Preston and the list goes on.
I see this project with Ed as breaking the ice, testing the waters to see what reaction we would get. So far so good, the next step is to continue with, most likely, one of a kind, pick a single image and have whoever paint or use whatever material around and over the image.
LMM: I look forward to seeing your next collaboration!
Interview with Gallerist Craig Krull
The Craig Krull Gallery was established in 1991 as Turner/Krull Gallery in West Hollywood. During the gallery’s three years on Melrose Avenue, the program was exclusively photo-based. In 1994, Craig Krull became one of the founding galleries at the new Bergamot Station Art Center.
Since that time, the gallery has expanded its scope and it now represents major Southern California painters and sculptors. The gallery is divided into three interconnected exhibition spaces of differing sizes. Exhibitions may focus on a single artist, but are more often comprised of two or three concurrent ‘solo’ shows that explore complimentary themes, issues, or aesthetics. For further information please visit: http://www.craigkrullgallery.com
LMM: The Craig Krull Gallery is one of my favorites to visit when I’m in L.A. Please tell us about yourself, the gallery’s history and your current program.
Craig Krull: I’ve been in the art business my whole life. I worked for an auction company in high school and got my degree in art history from Cal State, Long Beach. I did my graduate studies at UCLA. While I was there I got a job at Ace Gallery, which is an infamous gallery. It’s a great gallery but also has a dark side. I started working there during my masters and actually didn’t end up getting my masters because I got so involved in the gallery world. I realized it was where I wanted to be.
I became the director at Ace Gallery and then at Robert Berman Gallery and then at Jan Turner Gallery. Part of the way during my tenure at Jan Turner Gallery, we moved to a new location that had a mezzanine. I proposed that I open my own space there, in tandem with Jan, which we did. It was called the Turner/Krull Gallery, which exhibited exclusively photo-based work. That was part of the reason Jan accepted it as an idea because she thought it was a compliment to her program and not in direct competition with it. So Jan Turner Gallery was below and Turner/Krull Gallery was upstairs. I’ve always had a passion for photography or I like to say photo-based media because it’s less restricting of a definition.
From there, I opened Craig Krull Gallery in 1994 at the Bergamot Station. The limitations of dealing exclusively with photography due to my relationship with Jan were automatically lifted. When I moved I was no longer restricted to only photography, I was open to all media. Although, even to this day it’s taken people 22 years to realize I’m not a photo gallery.
I would say one of the things that characterize my gallery for the last 22 years is what I call ‘place orientated work,’ on my website I explain that Gary Snyder’s belief ‘our place is part of what we are,’ has a lot of resonance with me. I am very attached personally and inspired by the relationships between artists, people and places. I wouldn’t use the word landscape because that is too cliché and simplistic of a reference but it has to do with how one interacts with a place.
That’s one of the elements. I’m also interested in the history of California and the history of the United States. My roots go back to the Transcendentalists; Emerson and Thoreau and thinking about nature and our relationship to it. I’m interested in the movement of the American population to the West Coast and what California represented as the ‘end of the rainbow’ so to speak. And I also deal with a lot of contemporary issues about what California means, Michael Deyermond is a great example of that.
I’m mainly interested in the art history of L.A. and I’ve worked closely with the most important artists of that seminal generation that came of age in the 1960’s, including Ed Ruscha, Jerry McMillan, Peter Alexander and Joe Goode, Alexis Smith, Ed Moses and more. That was a really seminal period in the history and culture of Southern California and I’m fortunate enough to have worked directly with a lot of those people.
My gallery director Beth Parker has infused some young painters into the gallery, which is a fresh addition. It’s always a continual growth. People ask ‘What do you look for?’ I’m not looking for anything; it’s all about discovery, that’s how life is. If you go out with a shopping list you’re never going to find it, it’s not going to match your preconceived expectations, and that’s kind of a backward way of experiencing the world. I show what I like. I show what inspires me. It’s a natural process of discovering; there isn’t really a way of defining it.
LMM: ‘Alan Shaffer in collaboration with Ed Moses’ was recently exhibited at Craig Krull Gallery. Could you discuss your friendship with Alan and Ed, the exhibition and the process of making it all come together?
CK: Alan is a friend that I know through the daily life of the art business. He is a photographer that documents exhibitions and artworks for galleries and artists. He is a wonderful, delightful, pleasant, happy, positive person. He is a great friend and great person to be around. Alan knows everyone; he likes to enmesh himself in the art world.
He will tell you the whole story about how he came into it and how he photographs for everyone. I’ve known Ed for a long time also. Jan Turner who I worked for in the 1980’s exhibited Ed’s work many times. She represented him at one point and did at least five or six exhibitions. I’d see Ed at openings and say hello, it doesn’t go much beyond that.
The project was Alan’s idea and he can discuss more where the initial inspiration for the collaboration came from. I was happy to do it because it combines a lot of my personal interests, one being as I said earlier, the history of Southern California and Ed being a major player in Southern California art. It also incorporates photography and painting. I like when photography is mixed with other media. I don’t like it when photography gets pigeonholed into just the old fashioned black and white, white-glove kind of handling of print. I like to see photography mixed with other mainstream forms of art making. And this project is a perfect example of it. It also happened to work because I was developing a few portrait exhibitions at the time. Portraiture is not something that I normally do in the gallery but I’ve been getting into lately. I had an idea to do a Don Bachardy exhibition of portraits of Peter Alexander, who is one of those L.A. artists.
The basis of this exhibition was portraiture in collaboration. Don Bachardy is one of the great portrait artists of our day and believes that all portraits are part of collaborations and that the sitter is part of the performance and process. So Don was in one room, and in another room was the artist Firooz Zahedi, who did his normal kind of fashion and celebrity photographs, that he then manipulated and destroyed with chemicals. By allowing the chemicals to interact with his photos a type of collaboration emerged. And the third element was Alan and Ed, which was clearly collaboration because there was one artist working with the other. That was the premise of the show; all three rooms were about portraiture and collaboration. And it all fit together serendipitously. It was perfect timing for Alan to come up with the idea.
LMM: Working well together and trust are important factors in any collaboration. Please share your experience and your role in the project.
CK: I was not really part of the process of creating the work. Work was delivered to me finished. Any gallery owner will tell you though, their input into an exhibition in terms of installation and presentation is absolutely vital to the success of an exhibition. It’s definitely an art form in doing that. So every gallery owner should be given some credit for that element of what makes an exhibition successful. It’s kind of like the fifth Beatle; a gallery owner is part of the process of making the whole system work.
We did a gallery talk and I asked Ed what it’s like to paint over your own image and how did that affect what he put on the canvas. I think he gave me a one-word or three-word response. He is kind of mysterious in that way. I think the process of doing that (painting over a portrait) is somewhat similar to what I do when I put art in a gallery or what any artist does when they put work down on a canvas, in the sense that when you put one thing down it affects where and how you put the next thing down. Artwork interacts with itself and sort of tells you where it wants to be. It’s the same when an artist puts a mark on the canvas. Now it’s no longer just the artist, it’s the canvas talking back to the artist.
It’s all a performance and a dance anytime we do anything; we’re not living in a vacuum. That’s the way I see what collaborations are, what Ed and Alan were doing and what every artist does when making art. Responding to what they just did.
LMM: Very insightful. Thank you, Craig.