On the move and ‘Off the Hook’

As an expression, “off the hook” is a spin-off from the word “noise,” meaning that “you’re the bomb.” You’re doing something most people aren’t doing, and listening to things most people ignore.

Ronn Davis calls his new show, opening this Saturday at L.A. Contemporary in Los Angeles, “Off The Hook” because, he said, “My new paintings allow me to pay attention to where I am and to things that are not clearly definable. I’ve always been fascinated with the discarded. Being attracted and annoyed by things are equally important.”

“I’ve always been conscious of the insignificant things in life as being the most important,” Davis said.

The artist calls most of his work representational. Regarding his painting, “The Fly,” Davis said, “I’m fascinated with the details of what makes life life, rather than just surface.”

His paintings are also about movement, he added. “Conceptually, I’ve been ‘on the move’ and I’m on the move a lot. I’ve always slept about three hours a day since I was 11,” Davis said. “I like going into the city at 2 o’clock in the morning and hanging out. A gathering in the inner city doesn’t start to brew up till that time. I’ve always been attracted to those things that people pass by, finding them unimportant. So, the fly might represent the metaphor for movement, going into places that most people won’t go.”

Davis grew up in an environment of people living their art and, as a result, he defines art as synonymous with one’s life. “I was always the maker of things, already knowing how to draw, and never labeling it ‘art’ in the formal sense.”

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His mother was an actress, his grandmother, Sally, a medicine woman and his father and brother, contractors. Miles Davis was his uncle.

Davis’ educational life and career experiences have been varied and abundant. He spent most of his life up to the ’80s in the Bay Area, attending Berkeley in the ’70s and then the San Francisco Art Institute.”

He has worked in a wide range of media for the past 20 years including performance, painting, video and film. Davis holds a master’s in fine art from Claremont Graduate University. He not only taught art and architecture at USC for 10 years but also taught eye-hand coordination and problem solving at the UCLA School of Dentistry as part of the school’s Visual Perception program, and continues working with these concepts at USC.

In 1989, Davis was Santa Monica College’s guest artist and soon began teaching at the community college. He taught at its Malibu satellite campus in the old Malibu High School for four years. He was called back to the Santa Monica campus to teach painting and is currently the chair of the SMC Art Department. He also served on the Arts Commission for the City of Santa Monica for six years. He is also an art committee member of the Eli Broad Art Foundation.

A former Malibu resident for 10 years, he now has his studio and home in the Santa Monica Mountains. He also spends a great deal of time in Naxos, Greece.

Artists who have had the most profound effect on Davis’ life, he said, have been Joseph Beuys, the Dadaists, Beatrice Woods, Warhol, David Hammonds and Pollack. The attraction was not so much what they did but “how they did it and how revealing their life was beyond the obvious,” Davis said.

“Art is like breathing for me,” he explained. “Being in front of the canvas is only dessert. The meat and potatoes are what get me in front of the canvas whether I’m in the mountains or the city. It’s very important for me to remain mobile, keeping that movement in the piece itself. I look at the canvas in a very literal way as in ‘to canvas.’ I take art as a moment in time that might take you six months to record.”

And, as Davis indicates, recording the meat and potatoes is not an easy task.

“The barriers I create for myself,” he said, “are the most significant obstacle I’ve had to overcome. It’s not easy to be in the now.”

“Off the Hook” is on display at L.A. Contemporary beginning Jan. 19 to Feb. 23. An opening reception takes place Saturday, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. L.A. Contemporary is located at 2634 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034. More information can be obtained by calling 310.559.6200 or online at www.lacontemporary.com

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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