Los Angeles

Ron Davis

Nicholas Wilder Gallery

The current mode in art evaluation seems very much to favor the innovator. The quality of the created object has become either secondary to, or confused with, the creative act or idea. The romantic ideal of personal combat in the canvas arena, and the formalists’ demand for fecundity, as called for in the critical literature of the past decade, have seen to this.

Those artists whose work appears to derive from the current work of other artists, or tends to deal with the ideas of recent innovators, are often deprecated as chic or fashionably avant-garde, a position which ignores the drama of that visual dialogue between artists which has provided some of the best moments in 20th-century art. It has become increasingly difficult to reduce the domination of chronology as an esthetic value.

Davis works with geometrically shaped canvases stretched on thick bars to create an illusion of solidity. Where Stella, however, uses his equal stripes to both restate and deduce the structure of his support while maintaining (by allowing narrow strips of raw canvas to remain exposed between the painted stripes) fidelity to the fact that these apparently weighty objects are only paint and canvas, Davis uses a flat, opaque, allover color surface that turns the corner of the support and continues to the wall, to establish the illusion of solidity. These paintings lie visually somewhere between the traditional limits of painting and sculpture. Davis deals inductively with his shapes as an alternative to Stella’s precise deductive logic of stripes. This he does by using a second canvas, of a shape similar to the first, which may appear to almost interlock or to define a subtle variation on a particular angle of the first.

Davis’ introduction of a second but similar shape to comment on and to imply a totality of structure, and his completion of the solid object in space illusion implicit in Stella’s work, creates, in effect, an interesting criticism of Stella and simultaneously, a homage to him. Without the example of Stella, it is doubtful that Davis’ work would exist today in its present form—a fact also true of a number of other vanguard painters and sculptors. If Stella is still by far the more interesting artist, as much for his position as an innovator who has offered a number of questions for further exploration, as for the visual qualities and responses involved in a confrontation with his pictures, the judgment is also beside the point. For this level, intelligently critical and questioning painting is part of what it is all about.

Don Factor