Ed Moses’s Hegemann Series
In 1970, Ed Moses was to be featured in an exhibition at Mizuno Gallery. Having been told that he “could do anything in her gallery,” even “take the roof off,” Moses decided to do just that. For the first time venturing into the environmental inquiries of the Light and Space artists who surrounded him, Moses sought to create a “container of light and shadow” as sunlight that spilled into the gallery space. Exposing one-by-four slats in the ceiling, the resulting shadows cast a grid configuration onto the canvas spread across the floor, revealing a “drawing created by light,” and outlining what would become Moses’s signature composition. As the character of the work variably responded to the changing conditions of natural light, this event-like work allowed Moses to more fully explore the notion of time, which he had previously been limited in expressing. While still resistant to the period’s gravitation toward three-dimensional and spatial renderings, Moses sought a mediation between traditional abstract painting and more experimental mediums. The new plastic technologies, that gained popularity amongst Moses’s friends and produced the “Finish Fetish” style, made this bridge possible.
Concurrently, Tony Berlant introduced the Ferus Gallery circle to Indigenous textiles that he had acquired while in New Mexico. Moses took particular interest in Navajo chief blankets and was taken with their patterns. Shortly after his Mizuno Gallery exhibition, Moses began working on the Hegemann series, named for the photographer and author of the book Navaho Trading Days (1963), Elizabeth Hegemann. Drawing upon his early experience as a draftsman and reflecting his ongoing interest in architectural practices, Moses snapped red, green, or blue chalk lines and affixed simple masking tape on unstretched canvas to imitate the “lazy lines” present in traditional weaves. He then poured resin through the back of the canvas, allowing it to permeate the cloth and solidify the markings on the other side. The set resin spread several inches beyond the edges of the canvas, creating a frame-like border for the grid imagery. The resin’s caramel color, which produced blotchy rings and patterns as it soaked through the fabric, supplied a sense of age to the works and further alluded to Indigenous material culture through its resemblance to leather hides. This new type of painting harnessed both light and tactility within a flat plane. Moses soon abandoned this form when it was found that liquid resins were highly toxic, but the brief Hegemann series offers an informative demonstration of his artistic flexibility. In works such as works such as Untitled (1971) (lot 86), the painter engaged the material experimentation of his contemporaries, while maintaining the formal mandates of abstract expressionism.
Drohojowska-Philp, Hunter. “The Explorer.” Art & Antiques, Oct. 2014.
Yau, John. “Painting and Deconstructing, 1969-77.” Ed Moses: a Retrospective of the Paintings and Drawings, 1951-1996, Museum of Contemporary Art, 1996, pp. 27–29.
Samet, Jennifer. “Beer with a Painter, LA Edition: Ed Moses.” Hyperallergic, 31 July, 2015, hyperallergic.com/224449/beer-with-a-painter-la-edition-ed-moses/.
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