Paint & Repeat: ‘Cross-Section’

With this year marking the 50th anniversary of UCI, the Claire Trevor School of the Arts decided to celebrate this landmark event with its inaugural exhibition, “Ed Moses: Cross-Section”.

Besides being one of the most influential painters in West Coast postwar art, Moses is a well-loved and admired figure within Claire Trevor — he was a part of the UCI Studio Art faculty in 1968.

The exhibition is a retrospective of the painter’s body of work that spans over five decades—all three of the University Art Galleries are dedicated to the pieces on display, and they range as far from the 1970s onwards to this year.

“Rather than do something chronological, where you start with the earlier work and go all the way through the newer work, we decided to organize it thematically,” said Kevin Appel, one of the co-curators of “Cross-Section”. “There are really six groups of work within the three galleries, and each one represents a thought process, an intellectual discussion or a challenge in [Moses’] work that he made to himself, and we grouped things according to those periods,”

In the largest room, the Contemporary Arts Center Gallery, linear shapes were woven throughout the pieces on display.

The especially striking paintings included “Egyptian Trac”, a multicolored crisscross of extremely precise lines and “Untitled” from 1970, composed of acrylic paint, resin and masking tape.

While the resin used in “Untitled” lends the piece a look of faded antiquity, its pastel-colored lines are thematically similar to the punchier, contemporary-looking “Egyptian Trac” — even though the paintings were done five years apart from one another.

In the Gallery Room, the paintings were more fluid in form. “VGA” is a gorgeous sweep of red and black paints, lush and atmospheric in depth and color.

Many of the paintings in the Gallery Room are far more multi-dimensional in real life — “VGA” for example, glimmers under the light thanks to a beautiful metallic gold paint, which is completely indecipherable in photographs.

Similarly, “Diatrow”, a scribble of black acrylic on canvas, sparkles thanks to blue and multi-colored glitter particles glazed atop the black.

Repeated experimentation is crucial to the thematic elements of Moses’ work, which plays a part in connecting his paintings throughout his career regardless of the time period.

“There’s this playful metaphor [in Moses’ works] of repeating something over and over again trying to get a different result,” said co-curator Juli Carson.

“He gives himself a set of parameters, and he responds to them and each time creates something a little bit different,” adds Appel. “That for him is the excitement, is waiting to see how it’s all going to come together somehow beyond his control,”

Appel and Carson, view “Cross-Section” not only as a recognition of Moses’ impressive body of work, but also as an event that bridges the gap between the arts and sciences through a celebration of their similarities.

“When this school was founded in 1965, there was primarily a big science component, as everybody knows. Back then there was no divide between the science and the arts,” said Carson. “Everyone was collaborating, and they shared a vision. Every highly-ranked university thrives when you have that collaboration.”

Moses’ incorporation of science into his paintings can clearly be seen in his craquelure works, on display in the University Art Gallery.

To create the distinctive cracks in the acrylic, Moses adds a first layer of paint, his “secret sauce”, and another layer of paint. The splits that form are a result of a chemical reaction of the concoction, in addition to Moses’ own intervention in the process.

In “Le Fleur,” Moses manipulated the form to create floral forms within the cracks in the paint.

“There is a chemistry science to his work that should, and does reach out to people,” said Carson.

A celebration and fascinating collection of one of the most prolific West Coast painters, “Cross-Section” should not be missed by UCI students or the Orange County community in general.

Even Moses himself couldn’t quite believe the welcome he received during the opening ceremony of the exhibition.

“It’s a miracle, it’s mysterious, I’m bewitched and bewildered,” said Moses

“Cross-Section” is free and open to the public until December 13.