Venice artist Ed Moses, 1926 – 2018

By Christina Campodonico

Ed Moses was a giant of the L.A. art scene

To the world, Ed Moses was a famous artist. Around Venice, he was a local fixture.

His lauded abstract works — held in the collections of the Whitney Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Art and New York’s MoMA — frequently hung in Bergamot Station’s William Turner Gallery. And even as Moses reached his early 90s, you could still spot him taking in art at L.A. Louver or flirting with the ladies at Superba Food + Bread.

A member of the West L.A.-based art movement known as the “Cool School,” Moses was among a wave of artists in the 1950s and ’60s to move to Venice and transform its environs into a thriving arts enclave.

Aside from stints in New York and San Francisco, the painter remained committed to Los Angeles, residing or working in a variety of spaces on the Westside, including renting “a shack” in the Venice Canals for $9 per month, as he told KCET’s “Departures.”

Moses eventually established a permanent studio and home in Venice, where he died peacefully on Jan. 17 surrounded by his family. He was 91.

But age was just a number for Moses, who continued to produce prolifically until the very end. Leading up to his 91st birthday in April 2017, Bergamot Station’s William Turner Gallery showcased some of Moses’ latest works, including a series of dynamic grid paintings. The show was a follow-up to the gallery’s 2016 survey of Moses’ lifetime of work, and a year earlier LACMA hosted a landmark retrospective of Moses’ drawings from the 1960s and ’70s.

“I think the more he painted the more he loved to paint,” artist Andy Moses remembers of his father. “He would just wake up early, every morning, and all he could think about was painting. … It was really sort of a race to the finish line.”

In the days following Moses’ passing, the social media feeds of anyone tapped into Venice’s art scene exploded with tributes and remembrances.

“#RIP to our dear friend, #EdMoses,” Hal’s Bar & Grill, hosting an exhibition of Moses’ work next door to their Playa Vista location, wrote on Instagram. “Your art will continue to bring life to our restaurant.”

“He lived to paint and to love and to party. The order shifted depending [on] the week. But I was always delighted by him,” Code Pink cofounder Jodie Evans wrote on Facebook.

L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin wrote on Facebook: “Venice, Los Angeles, the art world and lovers of beauty lost a giant this week.”

In 2015, when Moses invited The Argonaut into his studio, he said art-making for him was akin to “leaving tracks in the mud.”

“It’s all evidence of my activity,” he said.

On this community, the artist has certainly made his mark.