Ronald Davis Biography
RONALD DAVIS was born in Santa Monica, California on June 29, 1937. Raised in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Student at the University of Wyoming in 1955-56. Worked as a sheet metal mechanic 1957-59. Found his calling as a painter in 1959 at the age of 22. Studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute, 1960-64. Started painting as an abstract expressionist, the influences and elements of which would be incorporated into many of his future paintings. Yale-Norfolk Summer School of Music and Art grantee, 1962.
In 1963 began to paint in a hard-edge, geometric, optical style. Began showing his paintings at museums and galleries in 1964. Moved to Los Angeles. First one-man show at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery, LA in 1965. Made geometric shaped illusionistic paintings using colored polyester resins and fiberglass from 1966 until 1972; these iconic works included the Slab Series and the Dodecagon Series among others. Instructor, University of California, Irvine, 1966.
First New York solo show at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1966 followed by a solo show at Leo Castelli in 1968. Paintings acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Gallery, London, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Art, and the Chicago Art Institute in 1968. National Endowment for the Arts grantee, 1968. Included in international exhihibitions: “4 Documenta International,” Ausstellung, Kasel, Germany, 1968, and “U.S.A., XXXVI International Biennial Exhibition of Art,” Venice, Italy, 1972.
Purchased a Buchla synthesizer and began sound sculpture and electronic music composition.
In 1972 built a 5000 sq. ft. studio/residence in Malibu, California. Collaborated in its design with architect Frank Gehry. This ground-breaking design went far in launching Gehry’s career as a “Post-Modernist.” Sold the Malibu studio in the early 1990s. Sadly, it was destroyed in the November 2018 Woolsey fire.
Learned silkscreening, lithography, etching, and papermaking from Ken Tyler at Gemini, G. E. L. and Tyler Graphics, Bedford, New York. Returned to acrylic paint on canvas in 1973. In 1975-78 painted the large scale, geometric, and illusionistic Snapline Series. Painted Floater Series 1978-79; Flatland Series, 1980-81; Object Paintings, 1982; Music Series of abstract expressionist paintings in 1983-85; Freeway and Freeline Series 1987; Spiral Series 1988.
Began designing paintings on Macintosh computers in 1988 using VIDI’S 3-D rendering and animation programs, VIDI’s Modeler and Presenter 3D. Continued intensive involvement with the Macintosh using it as primary sketching and drawing tool.
Traveled to Taos, NM in 1990 and purchased a 10-acre lot north of Taos on the Arroyo Hondo Mesa. Began building a complex of six living and studio buildings, the designs based upon the Navajo dwelling hogan, collaborating with architect Dennis Holloway and anthropologist Charles Cambridge. Discovered the relationship between the Hogan corbeled dome and prior work. Built a number of Hogan Frame Spirit House log sculptures and showed the 18’ diameter X 12’ high octagon Hondo Hogan in Los Angeles in 1991. Moved permanently to Arroyo Hondo, NM in 1993.
Began painting again in 1995, using the encaustic (wax) medium on wood to create illusionistic shaped compositions. In January, 1998 showed Wax Series at Jaquelin Loyd Contemporary in Taos. Built a 1,600-square-foot storage and display facility in 1999-2000 and liberated hundreds of archived paintings from commercial storage. Purchased cutting-edge 3-D programs Form•Z and Cinema 4D as a result of an ongoing fascination with three-dimensional computer modeling software, and spent a year learning new techniques. In summer 2000, completed Digital Painting series, a set of sixteen original giclée computer prints (some of which were created as early as 1993 in the earlier 3-D program Presenter Pro), working closely on production with Digital Color Imaging, Akron, Ohio.
On October 1, 2001, Davis began an unusual new series, breaking out of his thirty-year “perspective grid” for which he is widely known. Spent over a year creating more than sixty-five new paintings using expanded PVC plastic and Golden Acrylics, culminating in three exhibitions in summer 2002. Nine paintings from the new series were shown in August, 2002 in the exhibition Ronald Davis: Recent Abstractions at Philip Bareiss Fine Art, Taos; 24 were exhibited in a show by the same name in September 2002 at the Victoria Meyhren Gallery, University of Denver School of Art and Art History, Denver, Colorado.
Rectilinear Open Box, one of the first of the new series, was acquired by The Harwood Museum Foundation of Taos in November 2001.
In a broader survey exhibition entitled Ronald Davis: Forty Years of Abstraction, a total of forty paintings, sculptures, and prints spanning four decades – including the new 2001-2002 paintings and a selection of older works in various media – was shown at the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio in October and November 2002. Collaborated in summer 2002 on design and pre-production of full-color 32-page printed catalog accompanying the exhibition. Full set of Digital Painting giclée prints acquired by the Butler Institute prior to the survey exhibiton, as well as a major painting, Five-Panel Wave, and two 1972 Gemini G.E.L. Still Life silkscreens in December 2002.
In 2003 and 2004, continued developing innovative digital paintings using Macintosh computers and advanced, updated 3D rendering software Form•Z and Cinema 4D, outputting original compositions to archival papers with archival inks.
Approached by Galerie Dionisi of West Hollywood, CA in summer 2004 and agreed to an exhibition of selected 1970s, 80s and 90s paintings in spring 2005. The gallery folded before most of the paintings were returned.
Exhibited the Music Series 1983-84 at the Harwood Museum Foundation, a retrospective curated by David Witt, November 2004, for which musical entertainment was provided by the late, great saxophonist Frank Morgan.
Provided rare photography and background history for Wilder, a tribute exhibition to legendary art dealer Nicholas Wilder, at Franklin Parrasch and Washburn Galleries in New York City, 2005.
Took digital computer painting technique to the next level in 2005 with even more advanced 3D software techniques, enlarging the art and working closely with a North Carolina aluminum fabricator and printer to perfect the quality of fine art prints on metal including best practices for support, finish and framing; in effect, aiding the fabricator’s ongoing research and development.
Began a new series of digital works on aluminum in 2006, inspired by a first composition on metal incorporating an old Harry Truman clip-art image. Exhibited this and others in the series at New Gallery Houston, February 2006.
In 2007, John Elderfield, curator at MOMA NYC, installed the 1968 Dodecagon Series masterpiece, Ring, in the lobby above the information desk; it remained on view for a year and a half. The piece had been aquired in 1968 for the museum’s permanent collection.
Exhibited 1980s Flatland series paintings at New Gallery Houston, 2007. Continued works on metal with the onset of the 2008 election season, culminating in All The Presidents’ Rooms, a set of digital collage prints on aluminum depicting every president since Washington as well as 2008 presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. Created an audiovisual DVD presentation of All the Presidents’ Rooms with accompanying music. Finished two more new series of paintings on aluminum, the Minis and Midis. Exhibited this new work at Eight Modern Contemporary in Santa Fe in a show entitled 3D-CG.
Exhibited a solo retrospective at the failed New Gallery Houston, March 2008.
Hired a studio assistant in 2009 after decades of working alone. Produced a new series of paintings on expanded PVC plastic called Squares, Diamonds, Hexagons, and Shapes.
Featured in May, 2009 in Hopper at The Harwood, an exhibition hosted by The Harwood Museum in Taos curated by the late Dennis Hopper, who compiled a survey of selected works by California artist friends with whom he had worked and shared a place in art history.
Sent several 1965 Monochromatic series paintings, most never before shown, to Franklin Parrasch Gallery, NYC for a solo show in January 2010.
Began working relationship with Charlotte Jackson Fine Art, Santa Fe in fall 2009. Exhibited new Squares and Diamonds at Charlotte Jackson, fall 2010. Continued in 2010 with development of new digital works on aluminum, as well as several new shaped pieces on expanded PVC.
In October, 2011, traveled to Los Angeles, CA for a massive exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum in association with the Getty Research Foundation entitled “Pacific Standard Time: Crossroads in LA Painting and Sculpture,” for which the Tate Modern, London lent Vector, 1968 and the estate of Robert Rowan lent Black Tear, 1969, both from the iconic Dodecagon resin and fiberglass series; the exhibition traveled to Walter Gropius-Bau in Berlin, Feb. 2012.
Mounted a one-man show of new works on glass and aluminum, Pixeldust Renderings 2012. Exhibited in a few group shows at Charlotte Jackson in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Mounted one-man exhibition at Hulse/Warman Gallery, Taos, NM: Staying Alive, September 2013. Through Nyehaus NY, sold nine legacy masterworks to the Andrew Hall Foundation, including resin Slabs, a resin Dodecagon and shaped canvas Monochromatic pieces.
In summer 2014, suffered a heart attack and severe concussion with brain bleed. After several months of successful healing and recuperation, returned to work on Pixeldust digital 3D works. In May 2015, mounted “Ronald Davis – Unwrapped,” a show of older resin works and new digital renderings on glass at Hulse/Warman Gallery, Taos. Later in 2015, much recovered, made renovations to the Arroyo Hondo studio-residence, adding a Hogan Gallery and repairing the studio infrastructure in anticipation of thinking about yellow.
Represented by Nyehaus at UNTITLED.Art Fair, Miami Basel, Dec. 2015.
Mounted a show of watercolors, new Pixeldust works on aluminum, shaped paintings on PVC, and new 3D-printed staurolite sculptures in July 2016 at Hulse/Warman, Taos.
In October 2017, mounted a 40-painting retrospective, Divergent/Works, at the Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, curated by Dr. Richard Tobin and Gus Foster. Foster has donated more than a dozen Ronald Davis works to the Harwood.
Received a purchase grant in 2018 from The Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation for legacy resin Slab Two-Thirds Yellow, 1966, to be donated to the Jewish Museum in New York City. The work will be shown in an exhibition titled The Wild in March, 2023 which includes other artists’ works from the same gift.
Began relationship in 2018 with Heather James Fine Art, Palm Desert, California.
In 2018 and 2019, exhibited in group shows at 203 Fine Art, Taos, NM; Studio 107-B, Taos; Vivian Horan Fine Art, NYC, and Charlotte Jackson Fine Art, Santa Fe NM.
Began relationship with 203 Fine Art, Taos, NM and mounted a solo survey exhibition spanning the 1960s through 2021 entitled Ronald Davis – Seven Decades, September 2021.
As a challenging diversion, in winter 2021 began new series of circular paintings on canvas. Wishing to “first find the center,” Davis employed his established hard-edge geometry and aggressive color, finishing 30 paintings the following year.
Began collaborative relationship with David-Richard Gallery, NYC and 203 Fine Art, Taos, planning two solo shows at David-Richard’s new location in Chelsea, NYC, the first on November 10, 2022, the second in 2023. Optical paintings from the 1960s – executed in Davis’s early San Francisco, Pasadena, and Los Angeles studios – will be featured first, with a broad survey of many others in 2023. Over the 2022 summer, 33 works in all were pulled from storage, assessed, catalogued, cleaned, sent to Santa Fe for conservation or restoration, and shipped to New York.
In his 85th year, in fairly good health, Davis continues to study and incorporate updated software, new technologies, and new drawing and rendering techniques into ideas for new paintings.