RECENT PRESS FOR TERTIUM QUID by MURRAY MOSS
EXHIBITION ON VIEW 16 JULY THROUGH 15 AUGUST 2014
via Wallpaper Magazine:
Curator and gallerist Murray Moss lets his pictorial imagination run wild in his new monograph from August Editions. Tertium Quid, limited to just 1250 numbered copies, creates new stories out of the juxtaposition of old images, culled from press archives and wire services from the past few decades of American history. The result is a triumph of the strange, uncanny and ephemeral with striking diptychs set up throughout the book, complete with their scrawled, mysterious reverses. -- Jonathan Bell, May 2014
For the veteran design entrepreneur Murray Moss, 2012 was a year of turning points. It saw the closing of his fabled SoHo boutique Moss, and it was also the year he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He soon discovered that his medication had a number of side effects. “They keep me up late at night,” he says, “and they increase my already compulsive nature.” He sought to turn these new traits to his advantage by combing through hundreds of vintage press photos in the wee hours, and combining them to create surprising, often funny visual conversations. “This is what I used to do, literally daily, for 18 years, with the objects I displayed at the store,” Moss says. “Now I exercise this obsession with juxtapositions I make with press photographs instead of objects. It’s like making a movie and filming multiple endings.” His efforts are showcased in his new book, “Tertium Quid” ($75), due out later this month in a limited print run.
Moss, who is now the brains behind the design consultancy Moss Bureau, collected vast amounts of these black-and-white images, often from newspapers looking to liquidate their archives, including storied institutions such as The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Tribune and The Miami Herald. Some of Moss’s pairings are macabre, others abstract and some delightfully quirky. “I think of them as duets, or fugues. Some dance a pas de deux. Many are six degrees incarnate,” he says. “Each pair tells its own unique story, and each pair has its own protagonist.” On one spread, a man carefully inspects dozens of near-identical statuettes of the baby Jesus on the left, while the right shows a massive pile of discarded cigarette packs.
“Tertium Quid,” which is Latin for “third thing,” is also dedicated to Moss’s sister, Jean Moss Weintraub, a commercial photographer who passed away just over a decade ago. The book is his way of honoring those in her profession. He sees a parallel between the “blue collar” nature of press photographs and the methods used by the many designer-artists he’s collaborated with during his own career. “Part of what attracts me to them is the fact that they’re crafted objects — prints — made by hand by a person in a darkroom, in the way a person makes a chair, or a lamp, or a piece of glass.” -- Dan Rubenstein, May 2014
Via W Magazine:
“I’m not a photography person,” Murray Moss insists before launching into a description of Tertium Quid (August Editions), a big, handsomely bound book of the press photos he’s been collecting for the past few years. Moss, whose namesake SoHo store was the first housewares emporium to be curated as brilliantly as a museum design department, also claims he’s not a collector. But when he came across a banged-up press portrait of his late sister, Jean Moss, a Chicago photographer to whom his book is dedicated, he was intrigued by the quality of the print itself and began looking for more. For Tertium Quid (Latin for “the third thing” a couple of items can suggest), he organized the images into witty pairs: a smoking chimney and a smoking cigar; a miniature open book and a wide-open newspaper. Other connections are more idiosyncratic. A portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor is paired with a picture of matching monogrammed hand towels because, Moss says, “if they were things, they’d be guest towels.” -- Vince Aletti for W Magazine, May 2014
via Photograph Magazine:
Design maven Murray Moss presents his collection of discarded American press photographs as a series of deadpan diptychs in Tertium Quid (August Editions). Chosen with a keen eye for the comic, the marvelous, and the surreal, pictures of experiments, accidents, bad weather, cute kids, and the electric chair come together in witty pairs. There are inevitable echoes of Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s classic Evidence, but if many of Moss’s found photos are equally puzzling, nearly all of them are thoroughly annotated: the back of each photograph has been reproduced as carefully as the front, preserving the caption, rubber stamp, and grease-pencil graffiti a print accumulates on its way to and from press. The best of them are found Rauschenbergs, lost Motherwells – the Abstract Expressionist flip side to vernacular treasure. -- Vince Aletti, July 2014
A press photograph is defined by its function, which is to add a visual illustration to the contents of the story copy. But if the link is severed between text and image, what happens to that image? What does it become? Murray Moss has been experimenting with that uncertainty during a two-year investigation into the archives of defunct newspapers. Moss has picked out the most interesting examples of press photographs he found, displaying them for the first time free of their original context and instead pairing them with another image – sometimes sympathetic, sometimes antagonistic.
His exhibition is entitled Tertium Quid, which translates from Latin as “a third thing” and refers to a third factor of unknown status in relation to a pair. So it is that his photographs, when placed in pairs, generate a third thing – a new story created by the images re-contextualising in their new relationship. In addition to this artistic consideration, Moss is also paying tribute to the dying newspaper industry and doffing his cap to the often unsung and unseen press photographer. The exhibition is being held at Edelman Arts in New York until August 15. -- Rob Wilkes, July 2014
Shortly before he closed his namesake shop in Manhattan’s SoHo three years ago, Murray Moss picked up an eBay habit.
He’d just gone on a new medication that kept him up at night and he would spend hours trawling the site looking for old photographs. At first, he was targeting photographs by his late sister, Jean Moss-Weintraub, but soon he was distracted by the sometimes striking images that appeared in the pages of local newspapers like the Baltimore Sun and the Miami Herald, from the Thirties on through the Seventies. An obsessive collection began. In the first six months, he bought maybe 300 pictures.
“What am I going to do at two in the morning when I’m wide awake?” he said. “I’m a person able to focus relentlessly. I can look at thousands and thousands of pictures with a glass of water and concentrate on them. It’s not something anyone else would do. It’s boring.”
Moss was speaking Monday from his Midtown apartment about his first major public project since he closed the store. The collection is the subject of an exhibit he curated at Edelman Arts in New York that opens today.
For the design guru, now 65, the collection of these archival photographs is a return to the curation by way of merchandising that first brought him to prominence.
“I went through the photographs, and I experimented with different compositions, and this is of course what I used to do at Moss. And I had a platform again. It was a collection of things that could speak to each other if I put them together,” he said.
“Tertium Quid,” as Moss has titled the exhibit, follows a book of the same name that came out in May and features 25 pairs of images juxtaposed for effect, for instance a cop holding a gun arranged beside a photographer with his camera.
“The pun is shooting. It’s simplistic, but the photographs are beautiful. I put them together and something else happens,” he said cryptically.
This fall will mark the third anniversary since Moss closed the shop he opened in 1994 and eventually became a Shangri-la for New York’s design geeks. Since then, he’s undertaken a number of consulting projects through his firm, Moss Bureau: two books for Rizzoli, commercial interior design work, including an overhaul of the gift shop at Philip Johnson’s The Glass House (more museum projects are upcoming), and teaching at the School of Visual Arts.
Moss was diagnosed with Parkinson’s four years ago, but, in fact, he sounds reenergized in conversation, ticking off all the projects he’s got in the works.
“I have piles of things that tell me what I’m doing. I have many different platforms, which at first freaked me out because I was used to one platform, but now I have to shift focus so I can work on all these things,” he said.
The reception he’s received for what started out as a late-night hobby has surprised him. After the initial book was published, there was a review in an art journal, and Moss thought, “I got a review? Me, a merchant?” He shrugged. “And for what I’ve always done.” -- Erik Maza, July 2014