By Michael Aushenker
“I call myself a ‘paintist’ — somewhere between a painter and a scientist,” says Andy Moses, an art-world alchemist whose convex and concave paintings intentionally blur the line between painting and sculpture.
“I’m interested in that space between sculpture and painting,” he continues, “between photography and painting, between pictorial and abstraction. I’m interested in that fine line.”
Three of Moses’ works shaped by this philosophy go on display Saturday at the William Turner Gallery in Santa Monica’s Bergamont Station. “Skin/Deep: Materiality, Sensuality and Paint” also features works by several other artists, including his famous father, Ed Moses.
Ed Moses was one of the most innovative and central figures of postwar West Coast art, exhibiting back in 1957 at the influential Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles with other prominent peers such as Larry Bell and Ed Ruscha and attaining international status for his abstract expressionism.
Ed Moses kept a studio in Venice but very rarely exposed Andy and his brother Cedd, founder of the 213 bar group in downtown Los Angeles, to the area.
“He always felt it was pretty edgy,” Andy Moses says of his father and Venice in the 1960s. “We weren’t encouraged to become artists.”
Andy Moses, who now works in Venice, says the ocean-side environment stimulates his art to some extent, but the organic surfaces of his works are not directly derived from nature.
“I want these to reference nature, but to be clear, it’s not 19th-century landscape painting,” he says. “It’s more complex than being inspired. It’s mimicking nature; pouring the paints. I think I’m not only looking through nature but processed imagery through technology. Different points of view all at once.”
The younger Moses grew up in Santa Monica Canyon, which since the 1920s has been a haven for creative people. Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy made regular visits to the family home, he recalls.
Andy Moses took a less direct path to the art world than one might assume. He attended Crossroads School in Santa Monica and formed a skateboard company, Bee Industries, with friends in 1974.
“I surfed a ton during high school,” he says. “I was more drawn to literature, science, chemistry and physics.”
Andy Moses attended California Institute of the Arts, but originally enrolled to study film, not painting, but came under the spell of world-class artists who comprised the school’s faculty. Working with teachers such as John Baldessari, Michael Asher and Barbara Kruger, “I was pretty much hooked for life,” he says.
A job working as an artist’s assistant brought Moses to New York City, where the arts scene exploded in the 1980s with artists such as CalArts alumnus Eric Fischl and Julian Schnabel, an influx of German and Italian painters, and the pop art movement led by Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
“All of sudden, it was changing, Moses recalls. “There was a radical shift from the conceptual and minimal art of the ‘70s.”
Krueger’s gallery soon represented Moses whose early work involved black-and-white imagery that played with “organic abstraction, manipulating paint and letting natural reactions create the imagery,” he says.
Recalling the 1990s transformation of New York’s art district from grungy arts district to a trendy landscape marked by boutiques, Moses sees similar changes occurring in Venice.
Gentrification aside, “I still think that Venice has a lot of character. You’ve got nature, the ocean, canals, incredible sunsets, Google and galleries and restaurants … and urban city near an ocean existence,” says Moses. “It’s nice to have a little bit of an edge.”
Moses married painter Kelly Berg last year. In May, Moses contributed a painting to Venice Art Walk, as he does each year, while Berg did live painting for the Venice Family Clinic.
“Our work is really different,” said Berg, who also works in the abstract but with a strong background in figurative and representational painting. “We like a lot of the same artists, but we might have different favorites.”
Berg’s studio is next door to her father-in-law’s.
“I really admire his work and find his process interesting,” Berg said. “He’s really supportive of my work, and he’ll come by my studio and talk about the work.”
As for the shadow cast by his father’s career, Moses says such comparisons are old news.
“There’s no avoiding it on some level, but it’s not something I dwell on at this point,” he says.
Artist-to-artist conversations between father and son, however, are a plus.
“I think he saw [life as an artist] as a difficult road,” Moses says of his father’s initial reluctance to encourage his art career.
And, “yeah,” says Moses — the journey wasn’t an easy, but it has led to a very exciting time in his life.
“It’s been one continuous process in a way,” he says. “I’m very much in the moment, but I also feel that I’m on the brink of some new things.”
“Skin/Deep: Materiality, Sensuality and Paint” opens with a reception from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., at William Turner Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Suite E1, Santa Monica. Call (310) 453-0909 or visit williamturnergallery.com.