NOAH DAVIS (1983-2015)
NOAH DAVIS (1983-2015)
NOAH DAVIS (1983-2015)
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NOAH DAVIS (1983-2015)

Congo #7

Details
NOAH DAVIS (1983-2015)
Congo #7
signed, inscribed and dated 'Noah Davis 2014 For Charlie' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
72 x 48 in. (182.9 x 121.9 cm.)
Painted in 2014.
Provenance
Private collection, Los Angeles, acquired directly from the artist
Ortuzar Projects, New York
Private collection, New York
David Zwirner Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Exhibited
London, David Zwirner Gallery, Noah Davis, October-November 2021.
Sale room notice
Please note, the estimate on this work is now $800,000-1,200,000.

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Isabella Lauria
Isabella Lauria Head of 21st Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Noah Davis’s Congo #7 is a tender portrait of everyday life. The artist has earned an inextricable place in art history with his inimitable figurative work and his activism as the founder of the Underground Museum in Arlington Heights, Los Angeles—an institution dedicated to showing Black and Latinx art from the local community. His life was cut short by a rare form of cancer, but his legacy lives on in his haunting and formally replete paintings. Nearly life-size, Congo #7 is especially poetic, a photographic and mysterious moment quite literally at the threshold of interior and exterior, emotion and thought. Davis’s brief but prolific career only continues to accumulate praise, and his work is currently included in the Venice Biennale.

Often working from photographs, Davis always added dynamism to static images. Congo #7 depicts three Black men standing in a doorway, possibly in Los Angeles. It is reminiscent of the architectural photographs by Eugène Atget, like La Villette, rue Asselin (1921). One young man is lost in thought, or contemplating some quandary, while the others avert their gaze or take a moment of deserved shuteye. Davis’s colors are muted, even somber, and yet there is joy in his recording of Black life with loose and expressive brushstrokes. These figures occupy a doorway, suggesting motion and transition, though they may be resting or daydreaming at this particular moment. Strategically cropped and intensified, Congo #7 is thus somewhere between a painting, a photograph, and a tableau vivant. As writer Camila McHugh argues, “Davis’s paintings combine immediacy…with a timelessness—more precisely, a sense of being unstuck in time—that derives in part from his transtemporal source material” (C. McHugh, “Noah Davis: David Zwirner, London,” Artforum, February 2022, https://www.artforum.com/print/reviews/202202/noah-davis-87631). Davis’s figures are a part of the time and space of the viewer, and they simultaneously occupy a state of reverie all their own quite separate from us. To exist independently and with agency is a powerful gesture. Davis connects to a fecund history of portraiture and revitalizes it for our contemporary moment.

Davis has been recognized before and after his death as an essential voice in painting. Noah Davis: Imitation of Wealth opened at the Underground Museum on August 29, 2015, the same day as the artist’s passing. The following year, a solo show was mounted at the Rebuild Foundation, Chicago, and the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, presented the two-person exhibition Young Blood: Noah Davis, Kahlil Joseph, The Underground Museum—an exhibition of Davis alongside his brother. A critically lauded exhibition curated by Helen Molesworth opened at David Zwirner, New York in 2020 that travelled to the Underground Museum in 2022. Davis was also featured in the historic exhibition 30 Americans, organized by the Rubell Family Collection, which traveled extensively from 2008-2022. His paintings are included in numerous permanent collections, including the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Davis’s influence on generations of artists and art history itself continues to inspire. Congo #7 is a work of incomparable subtlety. It is also a gesture of care for these Black young men, just as it evinces Davis’s passion for painting, photography, and portraiture, all with his own stamp. As Molesworth writes, “My sense of Noah was that he really believed in art” because it could create space for “sharing and creating love” (H. Molesworth, ed., Noah Davis, New York and Los Angeles, 2020, p. 9). Congo #7 exemplifies that belief and love.

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