The whole weekend I was thinking about an excellent exhibition at the UCLA Hammer Museum, "The Soci--t-- Anonyme," as the perfect choice for today's Art Talk, but as often happens, another subject jumped ahead. The indomitable Ed Moses, whose 80th birthday I mentioned last week, has come up with yet another fresh idea: he decided to experiment with the centuries-old craft of tapestry-weaving which resulted in an exhibition at the Bobbie Greenfield Gallery at Bergamot Station.
Following the example of John Nava, who created a series of excellent tapestries for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Moses collaborated with experienced Belgian weavers in Bruges. That's where John Nava pioneered a way of combining digital technology with ancient craft, and it was Nava who introduced Ed Moses to these new artistic possibilities. What is especially satisfying about this new body of work is that, exhibited alongside the original paintings, these tapestries do not look like mere copies of the real thing but have their own striking presence. In addition to the vigorous brushwork and simmering palette of Ed Moses' paintings, his tapestries offer an unexpected sense of intimacy, even a hint of domestic comfort, which I had never experienced in my previous interaction with his art.
A day after this show, I made last-minute plans to go to Ojai to see the small, well-curated retrospective of Gary Lang's witty abstract paintings at the Nathan Larramendy Gallery. About to drive home to L.A., I got a call from John Nava inviting me to stop at his studio for a surprise. And a surprise it was -- a huge tapestry based on Chuck Close's black-and-white daguerreotype portrait of Philip Glass. It is the latest piece that Nava assisted in producing in Belgium. The composer's face, crowned by unruly curls, stared at me from the deep black background with an intensity that made my knees wobble. Instead of the cozy intimacy of domestic bliss, this tapestry exuded the power of a religious fresco.
Fast forward to last night. At the Directors' Guild -- a screening of Sydney Pollack's documentary about a long-time friend of his, who also happens to be the most famous architect of our time, Frank Gehry. It is a surprisingly intimate, and at the same time, monumental portrait of an artist whose creative genius has been a dominant presence on the national and international cultural scene since the completion of his enormously popular museum building in Bilbao. This engrossing documentary, composed of skillfully weaved strands of conversations between Gehry, his friends and colleagues, resembles an intricate tapestry, a tapestry to which I'm now tempted to add my own thread.
Thirty years ago, upon settling in Los Angeles with virtually no knowledge of the city, a new acquaintance suggested I meet an architect who knew a lot about art. His was a low-key office space in Venice, and my conversation with this middle-aged, soft-spoken architect turned out to be friendly, if not particularly memorable. This architect was Frank Gehry, but his name didn't stay with me, though he was kind enough to introduce me to important art curators at LACMA. Almost a decade later, his name started to pop up in articles and conversations, and I realized that this was the same self-effacing gentleman I met when I first moved here. Now my friends like to make fun of me, "Edward, you had the good luck to meet this remarkable man and you didn't know that he was Frank Gehry?" Hey, what can I say? It was so many years ago, even Frank Gehry didn't know that he was Frank Gehry.
"Ed Moses: Tapestries and Paintings"
May 13 - June 24
Bobbie Greenfield Gallery 2525 Michigan Avenue, B6
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Sketches of Frank Gehry
April 8 - May 31
Nathan Larramendy Gallery
107 South Signal Street
Ojai, CA 93023
"The Soci--t-- Anonyme: Modernism for America"
April 23 - August 20
UCLA Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90024