David Zwirner is pleased to present work by American artist Noah Davis (1983–2015), organized by Helen Molesworth. On view at the gallery’s 525 and 533 West 19th Street locations in New York, the exhibition will provide an overview of Davis’s brief but expansive career.
Davis’s body of work encompasses, on the one hand, his lush, sensual, figurative paintings and, on the other, an ambitious institutional project called The Underground Museum, a black-owned-and-operated art space dedicated to the exhibition of museum-quality art in a culturally underserved African American and Latinx neighborhood in Los Angeles. The works on view will highlight both parts of Davis’s oeuvre, featuring more than twenty of his most enduring paintings, as well as models of previous exhibitions curated by Davis at The Underground Museum. The exhibition also includes a “back room,” modeled on the working offices at The Underground Museum, featuring more paintings by Davis, as well as BLKNWS by Davis’s brother Kahlil Joseph; a sculpture by Karon Davis, the artist’s widow; and Shelby George furniture, designed by Davis’s mother Faith Childs-Davis.
Image above: Noah Davis, Untitled, 2015 (detail). © The Estate of Noah Davis. Courtesy The Estate of Noah Davis
Images below, in order of appearance: Noah Davis, Los Angeles, 2009 (detail). Photo by Patrick O’Brien-Smith; Noah Davis, David Hammons, Ian White, Henry Taylor, and Kahlil Joseph, Underground Museum, 2015; Noah Davis and Moses Davis, Los Angeles, c. 2010-11 (detail). Photo by Karon Davis
Daniel DeSure, Designer and Film Producer
“One day Noah came over and from the moment we met, it was just like we had known each other forever…. At the end of 2008 we got a studio together, downtown in Boyle Heights.
Here’s a story: I was leaving the studio on a Friday afternoon, around four or five o’clock…. Noah was just showing up and he had all of these canvases with him and he said, ‘I have to get all these paintings done by Sunday.’ I mean, no exaggeration—he must have had twelve, fourteen canvases…. And he stayed in the studio and finished all those paintings in a weekend. When I came in on Monday I was floored, floored.
He had ideals of how the world should or could function...He had an artistic vision that he brought to painting, but he brought it to everything he did in the world. He would say, ‘I wanna make this museum. I wanna work. I’m gonna start making sculptures.’...I always said that there was a kind of ‘Noah truth.’”
Lindsay Charlwood, Curator and Gallery Director
“The work was so strange, so beautiful, and so emotionally evocative or disturbing or impactful to so many people.... He could make a completely realized painting in a matter of hours. He could also work on something for such a long time that it ended up disappearing, and you never saw it again.
Everything always existed in strong opposition within his work and within his personality too. Nothing was ever simple for him.
I think that’s really the beauty of his work. I think Noah is the best painter of my generation, and I feel strongly about that. I always have…. Everything he did was so honest and made from a place of necessity.”
Henry Taylor, Artist
“He was a smart-ass kid, but a kid that I listened to…. I know a lot of artists. But being around Noah was something totally different.... Noah raised the motherfucking bar.
I was there when he started moving into the [Underground Museum] space… And I guess sometimes I said, ‘How you gonna do this?’ But you know what, I don’t think I really doubted him. It’s like Noah’s Ark.
Now I see stuff that I think Noah would show me and I say, ‘Ah, there’s a painting right there.’”