Four Block Box

Ron Davis
Four Block Box
Enamel, polyester resin, and fiberglass, 1970
51 x 141 inches
Gift of the LAM Contemporary Collectors Council

Spatial illusion was the subject of a group of young artists—notably Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, Ron Davis, and Robert Irwin—who were exploring new industrial materials and working in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s. While Davis’ peers were distancing themselves from the emotion-laden paint handling of their abstract expressionist forebears, Davis allowed the colors in his pigments to flow unhindered into the liquid resin he used for his sculptures. He filled his semi-transparent voids with a smoky luster, a technique used by traditional landscape painters in the skies of their paintings to give the illusion of spatial volume.

Four Block Box appears to be a series of semi-transparent containers with an assortment of angles, rectangles, boxes within boxes, entrances, exits, and expanding planes, which create a maze-like structure for your eye and mind to explore. Because of its human-sized scale, slightly more than 4 feet tall and almost 12 feet long, it also feels like a space you could physically occupy—beckoning you to get inside and explore its every nook and cranny on hand and foot.

Like a puzzle, Four Block Box plays with the conventions of spatial cognition using all the traditional tricks of painting and illustration but it also exploits the transparency of resin and fiberglass to magically extend the size and physical sense of a two-dimensional space into three dimensions. In Four Block Box what appear to be blocks are in fact flat shapes.