Ronald Davis -The Artist

by Susan C. Larsen


""This essay was originally printed in the catalogue Ronald Davis – Paintings published by the University Gallery, San Diego State University, CA, and accompanied the Ronald Davis Floater Series Exhibition held in 1980.

""The apparent simplicity of Ron Davis' new "Floater" paintings conceals a complicated set of spatial and pictorial decisions. These are challenging paintings which require the viewer to build a perspectival and a physical context for their imagery. We stand before a phenomenon composed of form and color and shadow. It appears to be both flat and three-dimensional. As it unfolds and as we probe it we discover a space built, as it were, by our own need for continuity of experience, our desire to make optical sense out of conflicting information.

""In this new series Davis has removed the network of perspectival lines which lent incident and excitement to his work of the past several years. The lines have been erased but they linger as the conceptual basis of this new work. Our perception of these floating forms and cast shadows depends upon our own ability to discover and to reconstruct their underlying spatial location. The picture plane appears to be flat but the shapes upon it deny its flatness, force us to find a new configuration in order to support their existence.

""Davis' "floater" paintings also bring with them the aura of the magical, they defy gravity and the normal logic of space. Floating forms generally suggest suspension or levitation. In Davis' work, however, it does not disturb us that forms are suspended on a brightly colored plane. They serve to define space; we are perhaps more conscious of their placement, the positions and angles they occupy, than we are of their physical relationships to the ground plane.

""We are also challenged to consider the factors of light and distance. As the floating forms move upward in space they cast larger shadows by blocking out more of their distant light source. In Davis' paintings we begin to measure, intuitively of course, the distances between object and shadow. We have little idea of the "real" size of the floating forms but their affective scale, their impact upon the viewer, is of a solid, substantial form in a grand space. This has always been true of his work. Its scale exists in the mind and is measured intuitively. A small painting may encompass a very large space indeed, even as a large canvas may appear to be quite intimate as it brings the viewer closer and extends itself into the real space of a room.

""Davis has always dealt in visual paradoxes and impossibilities. Like Uccello, Mantegna and Piranesi, he constructs his fictive world with an intellectual and pictorial rigor more consistent and internally logical than that of reality itself. In Davis' paintings we enter a world of clearly defined forms created by the mind and unidentified by particularities or irregularities. They move freely through time and space. He is, in many ways, a visionary and visionaries frequently cause solid forms to be suspended in air, leaving the spectator to stare into space with new excitement and wonder.

— Susan C. Larsen
"" January 4, 1980
"" Los Angeles, CA