'From L.A. to Taos' brings quartet of art greats back together

By Tempo staff
Posted 9/18/19

The names alone are enough for art lovers to sit up and take notice. Larry Bell, Ronald Davis, Ron Cooper and Ken Price are legends in Taos for having elevated contemporary art on a …

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'From L.A. to Taos' brings quartet of art greats back together


The names alone are enough for art lovers to sit up and take notice. Larry Bell, Ronald Davis, Ron Cooper and Ken Price are legends in Taos for having elevated contemporary art on a national and world scale but the fact they lived and worked in Taos brought a certain stellar energy to this Northern New Mexican art colony.

The gallery 203 Fine Art, in conjunction with the Taos Fall Arts Festival, is featuring an exhibit featuring these artists titled "L.A. to Taos" which opens with a reception Saturday (Sept. 21), 5-8 p.m., at the gallery located at 1335 Gusdorf Road, Suite i, in Taos.

"Each of the four established international reputations as young artists," a gallery statement reads. "In the vibrant scene of 1960s Los Angeles, they moved in similar circles -- as graduates of the Chouinard Art Institute, participants in the Whitney Biennial and as members of the Cool School and the Ferus Gallery.

"From the 1970s to 1990s, each of the four artists made the unlikely move from Los Angeles to Taos, New Mexico, where they continued to live and work for the ensuing decades. In years since they have reunited for the Getty Museum's major survey 'Pacific Standard Time' and the Dennis Hopper-curated exhibition 'Hopper at the Harwood.' This exhibition, 'L.A. to Taos', presents Bell, Cooper, Davis and Price in the context of their significant contributions to art in Taos and in America.


Throughout his career Larry Bell has made investigations into the properties of light on surface. By experimenting with the nature of surface and its relationship to space, Bell has devised a methodology characterized by spontaneity, intuition and improvisation.

Bell began his career in 1959 and his earliest works consisted of abstract, monochrome paintings on paper and shaped canvases whose outlines corresponded to the silhouette of a box drawn in isometric projection. Panes of glass and then mirrors were substituted for parts of the painted design and this exploration of spatial ambiguity eventually evolved into sculptural constructions made of wood and glass. These works represent the genesis of Bell's later glass cubes and standing glass-panel wall sculptures.,

From 1963 onward, Bell began exploring the passing of light through the cube sculptures, deploying a technique of vacuum deposition whereby thin films were added to the clear glass panels. Bell found that these glass cubes, presented on transparent pedestals, offered the viewer the essence of the captured light, becoming, in the process, tapestries of reflected, transmitted and absorbed light. Challenging notions of mass, volume and gravity in one single measure, the cubes appeared to float on the light between the floor and the work.


Ron Cooper (born 1943) grew up in Ojai, California, and started his career in the late 1960s in Los Angeles. By 1973, he had already participated in numerous international solo and group shows with pieces in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum and LACMA. Cooper's work explores light, reflection, transparency and color, through the medium of colored fluorescent lights, neon and glass. In his "Separator Variations" series the colored fluorescent fixtures, separated by glass, reflect and appear to overlap, combining the colors producing a third hue. Most of his pieces, like the "Separator Variations" series, demonstrate the additive nature of light (the subtractive result of combining colors of light). His other work included environmental installations and neon focused on the same themes.

Cooper began his work, art and journey with mezcal in 1970. Around that time he accidentally came across Oaxaca and fell in love with its people, culture and overall spirit. After learning and working with locals, and having several attempts to bring mezcal to the world at large, he opened Del Maguey as founder and president in the 1990s.


Born in Santa Monica, California, on June 29, 1937, Davis was raised in Cheyenne, Wyoming. In 1963, he began to paint in a hard edge, geometric, optical style. He then began showing his paintings at museums and galleries in 1964, then moved to Los Angeles. His first one-man show was at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery, L.A. in 1965. He made geometric shaped illusionistic paintings using colored polyester resins and fiberglass from 1966 until 1972. He worked as an instructor, University of California, Irvine, 1966.

His first one-man show was in New York at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1966 followed by a solo show at Leo Castelli in 1968. He began designing paintings on Macintosh computers in 1988 using VIDI'S 3-D rendering and animation programs VIDI's Modeler and Presenter 3D. He continued intensive involvement with the Macintosh using it as his primary sketching and drawing tool.

He traveled to Taos in 1990 and purchased a 10-acre lot north of Taos on the Hondo Mesa. He 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 Charley Cambridge. He began painting again in 1995, using the encaustic (wax) medium on wood to create illusionistic shaped compositions. In January, 1998, he showed "Wax Series" at Jaquelin Loyd Contemporary in Taos. In 2003 and 2004, he continued developing innovative digital paintings using Macintosh computers and advanced 3D rendering software Form•Z and Cinema 4D, outputting original compositions to archival papers with archival inks.

Davis took his 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 in ongoing research and development. He sent several 1960s "Monochromatic" series paintings, most never before shown, to Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York, for a solo show in January 2010. Approaching his 75th year, Davis continues to study and incorporate new software, new technologies, and new drawing and rendering techniques into ideas for new paintings.


Kenneth Price (1935-2012) was an American artist who made ceramic sculpture. He studied at the Chouinard Art Institute and Otis Art Institute (now Otis College of Art and Design) in Los Angeles, before receiving his bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Southern California in 1956. He continued his studies at Chouinard Art Institute in 1957 and received an MFA degree from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1959. Price studied ceramics with Peter Voulkos at Otis and was awarded a Tamarind Fellowship. He is best known for his abstract shapes constructed from fired clay. Typically, they are not glazed, but intricately painted with multiple layers of bright acrylic paint and then sanded down to reveal the colors beneath. Price lived and worked in Venice, California, and Taos. He is represented by the Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.

The exhibit continues through Oct. 28. For appointment or more information, call (575) 751-1262 or visit 203fineart.com.


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