Thaddeus Mosely carves ‘jazz riffs’ into abstract sculptures

At Art + Practice in Leimert Park, the new exhibition titled “Thaddeus Mosley: Forest” consists of five abstract wooden sculptures by the 96-year-old Pittsburgh-based artist. Inspired by jazz and improvisation, Mosley handcrafts all of his sculptures with simple tools – and without assistants – from felled wood he has collected over the years.

“The coins really show the mark of his hands. The joints are not perfect. The surfaces are not smooth. It really shows his process in this raw, unassuming way,” says Lindsay Preston Zappas, editor of Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles.

One of the works that specifically references jazz is “Off Minor”, a three-part sculpture named after a song by Thelonius Monk. “I really feel like it goes more for the mood and the feeling of the music and its surprising changes and turns,” Zappas says. “I think this piece almost defies physics. And all the while, we see the chisel marks and the artist’s hand creating a rhythm across the room.

See two views of Mosely’s Thelonius Monk-inspired walnut sculpture, “Off Minor.” Photo by Joshua White.

Zappas points out that Mosely was also a longtime woodcarving teacher. “He’s really interested in passing that skill on to a younger generation and making it more accessible and accessible to everyone.”

Mosely’s work can seem to defy physics with his use of the cantilever, in which he places the heaviest pieces of his sculptures on top. It’s unclear if this is meant to challenge itself or challenge the viewer.

About his abstract work, Zappas notes, “I think he’s able to make these pieces that seem to be balanced in a very precarious way. And part of that is just playing with the wood, the way jazz musicians can play with the notes and riff on each other and take inspiration from what’s in front of them.

Ada J. Kenney