Ronald Davis

(b. 1937)

About The Artist

Ronald Davis’s geometric abstractions were regarded as revolutionary when first exhibited in the mid-1960s. Both painterly and precise, they have drawn comparisons to the perspective studies of the Renaissance. But Davis’s eager embrace of new materials and technologies is characteristic of his own period and context: the groundbreaking art scene in California which incubated the careers of Peter Alexander, De Wain Valentine, and other members of the Los Angeles-born Light & Space Movement, who created plastics for sculptures concerned with capturing atmospheric effects. Davis himself employed polyester resin paint and fiberglass to produce impressive spatial illusions. “My work is comprised of aggressively decorative, meaningless, unidentified floating objects that pretend to be rational,” Davis once wrote. “Illusion is my vehicle. Opticality is paramount.”

Born in Santa Monica in 1937 and raised in Wyoming, Davis studied engineering for two years before he recognized his calling and enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1960. While able to describe his creative process in exacting detail, Davis does so candidly and with wit. “The paintings are often the opposite of what they seem,” he wrote in an artist’s statement for a 2002 retrospective of his work. “People think they’re ‘happy,’ because I use bright colors. Conversely, some think the paintings are aloof and cerebral; rather, they are defensive, protecting my fragility. I don’t know what they mean; I just know how to make them. A painting’s just gotta look better than the wallpaper.”

Ronald Davis, ‘Vector’ 1968.” Tate. Tate Collection, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. Davis, Ronald. “A Painting’s Just Gotta Look Better Than the Wallpaper.” Ronald Davis: Forty Years of Abstraction, 1962-2002. Butler Institute of American Art, 2002. 18-26. Web.