Inspired by snapshots that Noah Davis’ mother, Faith Childs-Davis, took while attending South Shore High School in Chicago and during the years following, the works included in 1975 Paintings capture scenes of the city’s South Side and Faith’s travels to California and abroad.
Born in Seattle, Noah spent several years at Cooper Union before moving to Los Angeles, where he built his reputation as a figurative painter. Working primarily in a muted palette, Noah’s canvases depict black figures in intimate and isolated scenes. Layers of translucent brushstrokes and opaque washes give texture and depth to shallow domestic interiors and surreal landscapes.
Noah was known not only for his painting, but also his curatorial vision. These two connected interests ultimately led to the creation of The Underground Museum in 2012. Founded in collaboration with his wife, artist Karon Davis, The Underground Museum opened as a hub for alternative exhibition practices in the heart of Los Angeles’ Arlington Heights neighborhood. The Museum consists of a series of storefronts turned into a gallery, a screening room, a library, and a garden. The 2013 exhibition Imitation of Wealth, now on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, features replicas of works by 20th century art icons like Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons and draws attention to the general unwillingness of art institutions to bring valuable original artwork to working-class and poor neighborhoods. A year after The Underground Museum opened, Noah told Art in America: “I like the idea of bringing a high-end gallery into a place that has no cultural outlets within walking distance.”
1975 Paintings is occasioned in part by the strong affinity between The Underground Museum and Rebuild Foundation. The exhibition reunites the 11 paintings in the community that gave rise to them. As Noah’s mother, Faith, explains, “The one photography class that I took in my senior year at South Shore High School is probably the one class that saved my life. While my peers were dodging drug dealers and stray bullets, I was the lucky and proud owner of a 35mm … through the lens of that Canon, I discovered my future self and captured my own personal journey from the South Side of Chicago.”
Faith’s photographs capture close-cropped scenes of the city and her journey to California: snapshots of afternoons spent at neighborhood pools, shopping trips, cab rides, college classrooms, and date nights with her future husband, Keven Davis. Nearly forty years later, Noah’s brother, artist Kahlil Joseph, discovered several undeveloped film canisters in his late father’s Harlem apartment. Kahlil and Noah developed the film and shared some of them on their collaborative website, FebMag. In 2013, Noah created the series of works that comprise 1975 Paintings, taking his mother’s photographs as reference and inspiration.
Organized by Theaster Gates and Ken Stewart.
Rebuild Foundation is deeply grateful for the friendship and support of Faith Childs-Davis, Karon Davis, Kahlil Joseph, Anita Blanchard + Marty Nesbitt, Janice Blanchard, Ari Emanuel, Mark Ankner, Helen Molesworth, Stephen Serrato, Nicole Otero, and The Underground Museum.
1975 Paintings is made possible by the generous support of The Kresge Foundation, and Rebuild’s individual donors, close friends, and volunteers.
Photo: Noah Davis, 1975 (8) Benjamin Lee Ritchie Handler