When artist Noah Davis died of cancer at the age of 32 in 2015, a key figure in the Los Angeles art scene was lost. Though his career was short, Davis, who also cofounded the Underground Museum in L.A. with his wife, Karon Davis, in 2012, was influential for many in the city he called home and far beyond it, and now one gallery has plans to boost his legacy on the East Coast, in New York.
This winter, David Zwirner will host the first major Davis survey in New York since the artist’s death. Due to run January 16 to February 22, the show will be organized by Helen Molesworth, who launched a relationship between the Underground Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles when she was a curator at the latter institution. (Molesworth’s involvement in the Zwirner show was first reported earlier this month in these pages.) After its run in New York, a portion of the show, which includes more than 30 works, will travel to the Underground Museum in March of next year.
“We really did want to explore Noah’s life both through his work and that of the people who surrounded him,” Marlene Zwirner, a sales associate at the gallery, told ARTnews in an email. (She is David’s daughter.)
The Zwirner presentation will also include works by Davis’s family members. Alongside his figurative paintings, which often depict African-Americans wandering through ambiguous, shadowy settings, will be BLKNWS, a video installation by his brother Kahlil Joseph that envisions a cable news network for black audiences that was recently included in the 2019 Venice Biennale, and a sculpture by Karon Davis.
Zwirner will, in addition, feature sections about the Underground Museum, with models of its L.A. home and information about its influence. (Shows such as 2018’s “Artists of Color,” a survey that was conceived by Davis before his death and focused on the ways abstraction can be used toward political means, have proven integral to the L.A. art scene. The institution has also staged important exhibitions of work by Black artists, including Deana Lawson, Rodney McMillian, and Roy DeCarava, whom Zwirner represents.) A series of public programs at Zwirner will spotlight Davis’s network of artists in L.A., and Molesworth is putting out a book featuring interviews with Davis’s loved ones.
The Davis estate is not represented by David Zwirner, and such a showcase for an artist that isn’t on the gallery’s roster is unusual. Said Marlene Zwirner, “We always like to continue these relationships with the hopes that there may be future projects or exhibitions that we can collaborate on down the road.”