Joel Shapiro at L.A. Louver; Ed Moses at Christopher Grimes

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Joel Shapiro at L.A. Louver
Ed Moses at Christopher Grimes

I used to take out-of-town guests on a sightseeing tour of L.A., saving the best for last. The Creative Artists Agency, built by I.M. Pei for the once all-powerful Michael Ovitz, stands on the corner of Wilshire and Little Santa Monica. In my opinion, it's a more refined example of Pei's architecture than his better-known East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington.

Recent SculptureOnce upon a time, Mike Ovitz was a major contemporary art collector in Hollywood, and the lobby and offices of this building were turned into a powerful showcase to display his collection. The -ber agent and his collection are gone, but two major artworks remain in the lobby as a reminder of the days of glory. Roy Lichtenstein's huge mural still dominates the entrance, and to the right of it is an excellent bronze sculpture by Joel Shapiro - a perfect example of his trademark abstract, minimalistic distillation of the human body to its basic geometric forms. There is a palpable sense of struggle emanating from this sculpture, as if it's trying not to lose its precarious balance.

Recent Sculpture To see what this major American artist is up to these days, go to L.A. Louver Gallery, where his latest bronze and wood sculptures occupy both floors. Most of the sculptures remind me of graceful ballet dancers balancing on one leg with torso and arms eloquently moving through space, expressing subtle emotions within a limited range of movements. My favorites are the large and small bronze pieces cast from roughly cut wood beams, with the metal surface of the sculpture retaining the texture and grain of the wood. I'm less taken by the few sculptures that are actually made of wood, with beams of varying sizes seemingly colliding in an attempt to expand the artist's vocabulary. These wood sculptures do not allude to a single human body, instead they're just clever abstract juxtapositions of rectangular shapes; their emotional impact is much less than that of their dancing bronze counterparts.

Rask, 2003 The art of 77 year-old Ed Moses, veteran of the Los Angeles art scene, is the subject of the new exhibition at the Christopher Grimes Gallery. His latest paintings continue to surprise with an endless variety of now-familiar looping movement of the paint brush dancing on the canvas or wood panels. There is nothing minimalistic about these paintings. Instead they are dramatic and exuberant, conveying the sense of an artist being led primarily by his intuition, endlessly exploring and improvising. Sjhib, 2003 This is where Ed Moses' life-long interest in Tibetan Buddhism is especially evident, with his paintings becoming a visual manifestation of the Buddhist concept of abandoning control. The last but not the least of the qualities that surprises and intrigues me about these works is their clear intention to please, first and foremost, one person, himself. If an audience likes it, all the better. And don't be fooled by the glitter sprinkled in his new paintings, it's not there to dazzle you. It's there as a private record of a conversation between the artist and the stars in the sky.

Ed Moses: Cross-Cut
January 17 - February 21, 2004
Christopher Grimes Gallery
916 Colorado Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone (310) 587-3373

Joel Shapiro: Recent Sculpture
January 16 - February 21, 2004
L.A. Louver Gallery
45 North Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
Phone (310) 822-4955