The Wilding Cran Gallery exhibition IT’S A SAD AND BEAUTIFUL WORLD…—featuring new figurative work by Vanessa Beecroft, Michelle Blade, Karon Davis, Katja Farin, FebruaryJames, and Bari Ziperstein—is on view by appointment.
Noah Davis (1983–2015) was a figurative painter and cofounder of theUnderground Museum (UM) in Los Angeles. Despite his untimely death at the age of thirty-two, Davis’ paintings are a crucial part of the rise of figurative and representational painting in the first two decades of the twenty-first 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, [MarkRothko], and Luc Tuymans.Davis’ pictures can be slightly deceptive; they are modest in scale yet 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 founded—along with his wife, the sculptor Karon Davis—the Underground Museum, an artist- and family-run space for art and culture in Los Angeles. The UM began modestly—Noah and Karon worked to join three storefronts in the city’s Arlington Heights neighborhood. Davis’ 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’ unique curatorial gestures.
In 2014 Davis began organizing exhibitions using works selected from the MOCA Los Angeles’ collection as his starting point. In the aftermath of Davis’ 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. — Helen Molesworth
The exhibition NOAH DAVIS—curated by Molesworth—is now on view at David Zwirner in New York. An iteration of the show will open at the Underground Museum in Los Angeles in March 2020.
A new Davis monograph—featuring an introduction by Molesworth and oral history interviews that she conducted with Davis’ friends, family, and colleagues—is forthcoming.
“Colors, like scents, are a royal road from the outside world to our emotions.” — Peter Schjeldahl*
The Underground Museum—founded in Los Angeles in 2012 by artists Noah Davis and Karon Davis—is dedicated to the exhibition of museum-quality art, and serving as a cultural hub for low-to-moderate-income communities.
According to UM director Megan Steinman, the museum’s current show ARTISTS OF COLOR—the third UM show curated by Noah Davis before his death in 2015—explores “how color is perceived or deployed, and how that can shift over time or by culture.”** Artists represented in the show include Josef Albers, Lita Albuquerque, Michael Asher, Jo Baer, Jeremy Blake, Noah Davis, Dan Flavin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Joe Goode, Carmen Herrera, E.J. Hill, Jim Hodges, Jennie C. Jones, Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, Imi Knoebel, DianaThater, and Brenna Youngblood.
The museum has strong local partnerships with LAXART, MOCA, and Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation. and future programming will be organized by Karon Davis (Noah’s wife), artist and director Kahlil Joseph (Noah’s brother), and MOCA chief curator Helen Molesworth.
All programs are provided free of charge.
ARTISTS OF COLOR, through February 4, 2018.
THE UNDERGROUND MUSEUM, 3508 West Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles.
“The cultural contributions of women and women of color are still underrepresented in the art world, and we are still asked to contextualize our practice in ways that other privileged artists simply are not.” — Shinique Smith*
“I have recently been exploring the idea of doing my work in secret. I was inspired by discovering the work of The United Order of Tents. They are a secret society of black nurses. They have supported each other and done good works since the Civil War. The Mother Emmanuel Church met in secret for 35 years, while black churches were banned in South Carolina after the Nat Turner rebellion.
“I don’t really have time to explain my work to people who feel that I have an identity and they don’t. I don’t have time to unpack all that. I’m focused on using black feminist theory or any other tools that can help me sharpen my knife, and make better work.” — Simone Leigh*
POWER: WORK BY AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN FROM THE NINETEENTH CENTURY TO NOW, a survey of over 60 works by 37 artists—including Ellen Gallagher, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Betye Saar, Ntozake Shange, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, and Carrie Mae Weems—is now on view at Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles.
The exhibition, curated by Todd Levin, also includes a selection of images from the Ralph DeLuca Collection of African American Vernacular Photography.
POWER: WORK BY AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN FROM THE NINETEENTH CENTURY TO NOW, through June 10.
SPRÜTH MAGERS, 5900 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles.
*Artists’ quotes from Power, the booklet published on the occasion of the exhibition:
ALSO SEE: theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/apr/05/kara-walker-karon-davis-power-black-female-artists
The participating artists: Beverly Buchanan, Elizabeth Catlett, Sonya Clark, Renee Cox, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Karon Davis, Minnie Evans, Nona Faustine, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Ellen Gallagher, Leslie Hewitt, Clementine Hunter, Steffani Jemison, Jennie C. Jones, Simone Leigh, Julie Mehretu, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Sondra Perry, Howardena Pindell, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Joyce J. Scott, Emmer Sewell, Ntozake Shange, Xaviera Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Shinique Smith, Renee Stout, Mickalene Thomas, Alma Woodsey Thomas, Rosie Lee Tompkins, Kara Walker, Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, Carrie Mae Weems, and Brenna Youngblood.
Shinique Smith, Bale Variant No. 0023(Totem), 2014 Clothing, fabric, accesories, ribbon, rope, and wood 243.8 x 50.8 x 50.8 cm 96 x 20 x 20 inches Image credit: Shinique Smith and SprüthMagers