NOAH DAVIS 👀

3508 W. Washington Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90018
Jan 28, 12 PM - 4 PM — ends Sep 30, 2022
Curated by Helen Molesworth and Justen Leroy.

Noah Davis (b. Seattle, Washington, 1983 - d. Ojai, California, 2015) was a figurative painter and co-founder of The Underground Museum in Los Angeles. Despite his exceedingly premature death at the age of 32, Davis’s paintings are a crucial part of the story of the rise of figurative and representational painting in the first two decades of the 21st century. Loneliness and tenderness suffuse his rigorously composed paintings as do traces of his abiding interest in artists such as Marlene Dumas, Kerry James Marshall, Fairfield Porter, and Luc Tuymans. The pictures can be slightly deceptive, as they are modest in scale while being emotionally ambitious. Using a notably dry paint application, and a moody palette of blues, purples, and greens, his work falls into two loose categories: there are scenes from everyday life, such as a portrait of his young son, a soldier returning from war, or a housing project designed by famed modernist architect Paul Williams. And there are paintings that traffic in magical realism, surreal images that depict the world both seen and unseen, where the presence of ancestors, ghosts, and fantasy are everywhere apparent.

Generous, curious, and energetic, Davis was also the founder, along with his wife, the sculptor Karon Davis, of The Underground Museum, an artist and family-run space for art and culture in Los Angeles. The UM began exceedingly modestly—Noah and Karon worked to join a series of 3 storefronts in the Arlington Heights neighborhood of LA. Davis’s dream was to exhibit “museum-quality” art in a working-class black and Latino neighborhood. In the early days of the UM Davis was unable to secure museum loans, so he organized exhibitions of his work, alongside that of his friends and family, and word of mouth spread about Davis’s unique curatorial gestures. In 2014 the UM entered into a partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles and Davis began organizing exhibitions using MOCA’s collection as his starting point. In the aftermath of Davis’s passing the team of family and friends he gathered continued his work at the UM, transforming it into one of the liveliest and most important gathering places in Los Angeles for artists, filmmakers, musicians, writers, and activists.