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Noah Davis

Noah Davis at work, Los Angeles, 2009, Photo by Patrick O'Brien-Smith

Noah Davis at work, Los Angeles, 2009, Photo by Patrick O'Brien-Smith

“Painting does something to your soul that nothing else can. It’s visceral and immediate”
Noah Davis, Dazed, Feb 2010 

In February 2025, Barbican Art Gallery will host the largest institutional survey to date of the work of late American artist Noah Davis (1983 – 2015). Bringing together over 50 works spanning the artist’s career, this major touring exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of Davis’ extraordinary practice in painting as well as his work in curating and community-building as co-founder of The Underground Museum. 
Based primarily in Los Angeles, Davis created a body of figurative paintings that explore a range of Black life. Believing he had a “responsibility to represent the people around me,” Davis drew on anonymous photography found in flea markets, personal archives, film and television, music, literature, art history and his imagination to create a ravishing body of work.  Figures dive into swimming pools, sleep, dance, and look at public art in settings that can be both realistic and dreamlike, joyful, and melancholic. Often enigmatic and uncanny, Davis’ paintings reveal a deep feeling for people, humanity, and the emotional textures of everyday life. 

Motivated by the desire to “change the way people view art, the way they buy art, the way they make art,” Davis and his wife Karon co-founded The Underground Museum in 2012, a revered and loved institution in the historically Black and Latinx neighborhood of Arlington Heights, Los Angeles.

Organised chronologically, this retrospective presents Davis’ relentless curiosity beginning with his first exhibition in 2007, spanning 8 years until his untimely death in 2015. Featuring previously unseen paintings, works on paper, sculpture and his work at The Underground Museum, the exhibition pays special attention to the art historical, philosophical and conceptual approaches to his practice, revealing that collected images, humour, and above all, people were the core of his work. 
Noah Davis is initiated by Barbican, London and DAS MINSK, Potsdam where it will be on display 7 September 2024 – 5 January 2025. The exhibition will tour to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles 8 June – 31 August 2025.