Providing a crucial record of the painter Noah Davis’s extraordinary oeuvre, this monograph tells the story of a brilliant artist and cultural force through the eyes of his friends and collaborators.
Despite his exceedingly premature death at the age of 32, Davis’s paintings have deeply influenced the rise of figurative and representational painting in the twenty-first century. Davis’s emotionally charged work places him firmly in the canon of great American painting. Stirring, elusive, and attuned to the history of painting, his compositions infuse scenes from everyday life with a magical realist atmosphere and contain traces of his abiding interest in artists such as Marlene Dumas, Kerry James Marshall, Fairfield Porter, and Luc Tuymans.
This catalogue is born of the unique relationship between Davis and Helen Molesworth, whom Davis entrusted to be the curator of his work. It is published on the occasion of the 2020 exhibition at David Zwirner, New York, which travels to The Underground Museum in Los Angeles, a space that Davis founded with his wife, artist Karon Davis. In her introduction, catalogue essay, and interviews with important figures in Davis’s life, Molesworth shows how the artist’s generosity and sense of responsibility galvanized a uniquely supportive artistic community, culture, and vision. Together with color illustrations and archival photographs, the book features heartfelt testimonials that unfold in the intimate yet expansive spirit of studio visits with people close to him.
About the Author
American artist Noah Davis’s (1983–2015) 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.
Helen Molesworth is a Los Angeles–based writer and curator. While chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles she forged a partnership with The Underground Museum and organized the exhibitions Kahlil Joseph: Double Consciousness (2015) and Noah Davis: Imitation of Wealth (2015).
"Published on the occasion of the 2020 exhibition at David Zwirner New York, this book is a comprehensive compendium of the late Noah Davis’s poignant and extraordinary oeuvre." — Allison Schaller and Danielle Walsh
"The show [at David Zwirner New York] is so good—yet so poignantly final—that it leaves you feeling both euphoric and wretched... As art, it stands alone, 100 percent persuasive. But it also reminds us that Davis won’t be producing more paintings. And that hurts." — Sebastian Smee
"What’s remarkable about Davis’ work is that he’s very ahead of the curve on a sort of flat figurative painting that’s absolutely dominated the 21st century." — Jerry Saltz
"The exhibition... establishes him as one of the signal figurative painters of the era, and a once-in-a-generation colorist." — Andrew Russeth
"A new show at David Zwirner could secure the legacy of his ‘mad genius’ for years to come." — Taylor Dafoe
"Context and legacy aside, the paintings are marvelous. Primarily figurative, they’re narratively and emotionally murky yet fiercely charged with heat." — Wallace Ludel
"This social and artistic evidence of Noah Davis’ legend is there for all to see at Zwirner..." — Piotr Orlov
"His works [are]... sumptuously surreal..." — Dessane Lopez Cassell
"Davis’s paintings have a dreamlike magnetism." — Scott Indrisek