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THE ART GALLERIES

Santa Monica

September 25, 1987|Colin Gardner

Since he began painting at the tail end of the 1950s, Ronald Davis has always vacillated between the all-over gestural automatism of Abstract Expressionism and a hard-edge, geometrical style that stresses optical illusion alongside deliberate draftsmanship. His latest "Freeline" and "Freefloat" series continue this dialogue, presenting streamlined architectural forms (arches, slabs and beams) against amorphous splattered backgrounds.

Whether floating in isolation or enveloping each other, the forms cast dropped shadows in order to accentuate their apparent three-dimensionality. This is reinforced by Davis' use of Day-Glo animation cel colors, causing each object to pop retinally from the flat picture plane. Pure illusion is undermined, however, by his inclusion of rough perspective lines that draw attention to the constructed artificiality of the entire enterprise.

While the works are both technically and compositionally accomplished, they also seem to be replaying well-worn formalist games without breaking new ground. Davis seems to know this, for his various attempts in recent years to marry painterly vocabulary with the non-material structures of music suggest an innate frustration with the limitations of both representational and abstract visual language. Perhaps the answer lies in letting go of the obvious dialectic and focusing instead on the contradictions inherent within each genre. (Blum-Helman, 916 Colorado Ave., to Oct. 17.)

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