Ronald Davis spent most of his youth in Cheyenne, Wyoming. After a year and a half in the engineering program at the University of Wyoming, his diverse interests directed him toward several careers, including racecar driving and radio announcing. In 1959 Davis entered the San Francisco Art Institute and graduated from there in 1964. At that time, Bay Area interest in abstract expressionism was high, and Davis' admiration for the expansive abstractions of Clyfford Still is evident in her early canvases. In 1965 Davis moved to Pasadena and had his first one-man show at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery, Los Angeles.
In his monochromatic shaped canvases of this period, Davis examined issues of spatial illusion and two-dimensionality. Interested in drawing systems and new materials, he expressed his art ideas about paintings as objects, and in the late 1960's, sought a harder and smoother surface on which to develop them. Experimenting with plastics, he began working with resin and fiberglass, which offered great coloristic potential. By 1972 Davis adopted a rectangular format, using canvas and acrylic paints. By the end of the decade the artist was exploring computer-generated imagery. Davis currently maintains studios in Malibu and Hollywood.
Apart from a few student experiments at Yale-Norfolk summer school, Davis made his first prints with Gemini in 1971. He has completed more than thirty-five editions there. He has also collaborated at Tyler Graphics Ltd. and has published several screenprints printed by Jeffrey Wasserman. The Pasadena Art Museum organized a one-man exhibition of Davis' work in 1971, and a major retrospective was held at the Oakland Museum in 1976. Shows have also been organized at Pepperdine University, Malibu (1979), and San Diego State University (1980).