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Art Inc.: American Paintings From Corporate Collections: 1979
The following piece about Ronald Davis and his early resin works is excerpted from an exhibition catalog entitled Art. Inc: Americans Paintings From Corporate Collections, published in 1979 by Art Inc., a division of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Alabama. The publication accompanied the traveling exhibition of the same name. Art Inc.: American Paintings from Corporate Collections, was mounted during 1979 at The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Alabama; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana; and The San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California. Henry Flood Robert, Jr., Director of the Mongomery Museum of Fine Arts, remarked in the foreword, "It is our hope that Art Inc. will play a significant role in encouraging the continued growth and quality of the interaction between business and the visual arts."
In his early works, Ron Davis expressed the cool, sophisticated attitude of the younger generation of Los Angeles artists who specialized in hard-edge geometric shapes, strong coloration, reflective surfaces, and experimentation with new materials.
Born in California in 1936, Davis spent part of his youth in Cheyenne, Wyoming. After studying engineering at the University of Wyoming in 1955-1956, he worked at a variety of odd jobs and began painting in 1959. He returned to California in 1960 to study at the San Francisco Art Institute. Five years later, Davis moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles, where he had his first one-man show at the Nicolas Wilder Gallery. Since that time, he has received widespread recognition.
Davis uses perspective to create the illusion that the canvas is a solid geometric object. The effect is quite different from that created by traditional Renaissance perspective which aims to produce a realistic scene. In Davis's work, the goal is to depict the object not in relation to its surroundings but abstracted from them and viewed in isolation on the white ground of a blank wall. Even the painting's relationship to the wall is minimized as much as possible; rather than hanging on it, the painting juts out from it. The viewer feels somehow unrelated to Davis's works, for their perspective creates the sensation of leaning forward or standing upside down. Disorientation on the part of the viewer also arises from the contrast between the illusion of depth supplied by the perspective and the painting's actual flatness. Other ambiguities arise from the non-rectangular canvases and from the use of color to suggest transparency of the actually solid objects. Davis sometimes embeds areas of gestural painting in an abstract expressionist style under layers of transparent resin.
The polyester resin paintings, such as Cube III, were begun in 1966. Davis started
by taking a flat formica mold on which the illusionary planes were demarcated with tape. The polyester resin was then mixed with a variety of pigments, dyes, mirror flake, aluminum or bronze powder, pearl essence, and glitter, and applied in successive layers beginning with the one nearest the viewer. Fiberglass impregnated with resin was then laminated to the back to provide support, and
a wooden stretcher bar in the shape of the object was added; only then was the painting peeled off the mold and polished and the image viewed by the artist for the first time. This basic technique was varied and refined over several years as Davis progressed from early, simple forms like Cube III to more complex geometric configurations. He abandoned this medium in 1972 for reasons of aesthetics
and also due to health risks associated with the resins. Davis has returned to using traditional paint on canvas [and expanded PVC. – Editor] and continues to explore problems of spatial illusion and color through the use of complex geometric forms.