Andy Moses: A 30 Year Survey
Santa Monica College, Pete and Susan Barrett Art Gallery
By Shana Nys Dambrot
Through March 25th
The first thing you notice about the visual arc of the works assembled by curator Marian Winsryg for painter Andy Moses’ new mid-career survey is how very different the stages of his artistic evolution have been. The next thing you notice is how very much the same they are as well. In fact, despite distinct periods, the core of his practice has actually remained fundamentally constant from the start. Through early works of rough hewn mineral impasto, supersaturated bursts and aurora-like navels and novas and to subsequent expansions and explorations of palette and texture toward the viscous, tidal swirls of the last dozen or so years, Moses’ interests in geology, elemental and atmospheric phenomenology, and techniques of brushless abstraction have never wavered. An abstractionist who is above all a devotee of the earth and the sea, between and among a high dynamic range of aesthetic variables, only his perspective and strategies of facture have shifted.
The main source of the palpable consistency that links periods of diverse activity is Moses’ penchant for replicating rather than depicting the qualities of his natural-world subjects. When he paints terrain, he accumulates, erodes, and layers pigment in much the same way as the earth’s crust is formed over eons. When he paints the sky, he manages to fulminate gaseous billowing pigments which occupy both vertical and horizontal pictorial space at the same time. When he paints the sea or the sands he generates currents, drifts, and the serpentine motions of multiple shifting horizons against receding optical space. It is evocation, poetic rather than illustrative; he shows rather than tells the essence of his language, unendingly terrestrial.
His palette was always full-on and omnivorous, from inky black, mica-inflected gray, and pearlescent white to cosmic indigo, radiant scarlet, blood-orange butterscotch, port-wine fuchsia, regal violet, and sun-bright gold. Lush and seductive and not entirely of this world, this chromatic fancy is yet tethered to this world by the organic energy of the forms and images that give the paint its voice. His periodic experiments in shaped canvases (circles in former days, convex and cantilevered parabolic panels in the latter) as well as interrupted surfaces and his early use of text as elements of the composition, largely indicate quasi-scientific moments of scrutinizing the optical effects which enchant him.
He has a special knack for combining meticulous preparation and painstaking execution with improvisation and the operations of chance. And yet despite the physical velocity and hydraulic momentum of the brushless gestures that build the works, the results are anything but messy. Instead a crisp, articulated, self-organizing field of contours and impossibly dense details remains in tight focus. And this is as true of his geological and meteoric works from the 1990s as it is of his aerial-inflected waves and washes of the 2000s, and right on into the increasingly surrealistic fever dreams of this last year.