Though he was born and achieved renown as a painter in Los Angeles, Ron Davis spent his formative years in Cheyenne, Wyoming, making his way back to L.A.’s vibrant 1960’s art scene via the San Francisco Art Institute and Clyfford Still-style abstract expressionism. After a brief flirtation with op art, Davis struck upon a mode of abstract painting that established him as one of the preeminent, and most influential, abstract painters of the era. Davis’ idea was simple: rather than struggle against the hardwired illusionism of pictorial space, he would strip it down to its fundamental elements, exaggerate it, and render it in the kind of integrated industrial materials—colored resins over fiberglass—that emphasized the painting’s object-ness.
The resultant trompe l’oeil geometric perspectival studies trumped Frank Stella’s related move into decorative extravagance and came close to eliminating the thorny abstract painters’ issue of spatial illusionism by pushing it to the foreground. Davis’ surfaces alternated between solid colors that conform to the depicted geometric form and a variation on “splatter” painting, providing a link to the still-influential New York school of abstract expressionists. The earlier fiberglass and resin works were built up in reverse in waxed Formica molds. By 1971, when he painted Four Block Box, Davis had found a more flexible resin that made his translucent shaped forms considerably flatter—in this instance bordering on the intricacy and perspectival play of Islamic tile work. A year later, citing health and aesthetic concerns, Davis had given up the use of resin and moved on to more traditional painting materials. Since the 1980s, he has increasingly explored digital 3-D imaging, producing new objects with a material called “heat fused pixel dust” from his home studio in New Mexico.
Works in Our Collection
Four Block Box
Enamel, polyester resin, and fiberglass, 1970
51 x 141 inches
Gift of the LAM Contemporary Collectors Council