Ronald Davis -The Artist

"Forword" by Lou Zona


dotThis statement was originally printed in the catalog that accompanied the forty work retrospective, "Ronald Davis: Abstractions 1962 – 2002," exhibited at the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio in October 2002.


The generation of artists of which Ronald Davis is a part has made a lasting contribution to the field and in fact continues to inspire the art of the new century. But very few of Davis' contemporaries can claim to have affected the course of events to the extent that this California-born painter has, in both substance as well as style. And perhaps no other painter of his era explored media with as much intensity or investigated new approaches to abstraction with such depth.

Despite enormous success with his early, visually masterful canvases he pushed full speed ahead in developing ways to express his ideas in newly developed resins, new material developed for industrial applications. These extraordinarily complex works soon became among the most exhibited and critically acclaimed works of the Post War era. They pointed to the future and to its possibilities with the same significance of Gabo's and Pevsner's constructivist works of decades before. Davis's resin works in fact proved to be a high water mark for American geometric based abstraction, rivaling in importance Modrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie.

Given Ronald Davis's history in taking risks and in exploring new modes of visual expression, it is not shocking to learn of his early plunge into electronic media. His reach into computer graphic works was undoubtedly the earliest serious work done in this new media. Certainly he was the very first established artist to recognize the importance and the wide-ranging possibilities of this, the most exciting new media since the creation of oil paint. This, like the previous trend setting departure from tradition, has shown the world that Ronald Davis should rank as one of the great innovators of the twentieth century and clearly is an artist whose work will ultimately help define the art of the new century.

On a personal level, this exhibition represents a special moment in my career. I have admired the work of Ronald Davis for nearly four decades since I first experienced its amazing beauty and power at the Leo Castelli Gallery. His work from that moment on would remain for me a standard of achievement by which I would compare other abstract works. I am honored and most proud that The Butler Institute of American Art would play host to Ronald Davis's first major museum show in recent years. He is an American classic and a star of our visual arts heritage who deserves all the recognition and acclaim we can give.

— Louis A. Zona, Director: Butler institute of American Art