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Background Story:

For the last four years, I have spent a great deal of time at The Underground Museum in Los Angeles. This is a museum that was founded by the late artist. Noah Davis. During my time there I have seen life-changing exhibitions and works, yet had never seen a full body of work by Davis himself. In late 2019 I heard the gallery, David Zwirner, would finally change that. I was excited my first time seeing Noah Davis' work would be in New York City, the city of art and the nonstop buzz of energy --- even in the winter. During the night of the opening, the air was extra crispy, cold, and windy. This would not stop the overflow of people in the three-room gallery. This opening would be the last opening I would attend in 2020, which made this exhibition even more special.

I couldn't believe how this young artist had such an impact on his community and how his vision would transcend beyond his own work and death. The belief he had in himself and the future is something I will always hold in my heart and memory. This opening wasn't like other openings. This one was filled with love, admiration, excitement, and happiness from friends, family, artists, art lovers, and so on. In this mixed crowd of people, I felt like I belonged. I felt loved. I felt seen. In those few hours, I was just happy and from what I saw, everyone else was too. Noah has taught me how to be an artist, a curator, a community member, and most importantly, he taught me how to to believe, despite the doubt from others. And I can't thank him enough.

About the Paintings + Reflection

Unlike the other exhibitions I highlight, Davis' isn't about a specific theme, instead, it is an exhibition that celebrates his work throughout his life. These figurative paintings are from both Noah Davis' estate and private collections. When I saw his paintings I was in awe. Davis' use of colors, composition, content, patterns, and titles engulfs you. His paintings are thought-provoking, layered in meaning, and overall compelling to look at. Each painting tells a story paired with a title that guides you through the story that Davis, maybe, intended to tell.

His ability to paint black bodies and black life is nothing like I have seen before and it truly made me miss my family. I revisited this show twice and both times I felt the energy of the works and the energy of Davis. Noah Davis is an artist gone too soon, but his legacy, memory, and energy will live forever through his work, family, friends and The Underground Museum

Noah Davis exhibition is my choice for the #1 exhibition of 2020.



WATCH THIS FILM about noah davis and READ more about the exhibition here



Background Story:

L.A. loves Lauren Halsey because she loves them back and that is evident through her work and the crowds she brings out in her home city. More specifically, Halsey's work brings crowds of people from South Central L.A. into fine art spaces, - the same spaces that holds a long history in excluding people of color. Halsey has been changing that with her larger than life installations that embodies Black culture and the energy from her neighborhood. Beyond the symbolism in her work what is most important (in my opinion) is her ability to bring her community into her work and into the place her works exists in. 

From the looks of it (s/o to Instagram), to say Halsey's exhibition was packed, would be an understatement. The line was around the block for hours, filled with people from all over L.A. Line-out-the-doors exhibitions rarely happen in L.A. The last two times I witnessed openings like that was Kerry James Marshall's 2016 retrospective at MOCA and Hammer's 2018, Made in LA, exhibition, which also included Halsey's work and would end up winning the $100,000 Mohn Award.

I ran into the gallery days before Mama Covid shut the country down and on the last
day of the exhibition. Even in its final hours her exhibition was still flowing with people. 

About the Work + Reflection 

This was my third time seeing Halsey's work and it never fails to amaze me. Her vision is undeniable. Her roots in South Central are deep and her loyalty to her community is admirable and inspiring. Like her other large scale works, this exhibition placed you into another world - for some at least. As for others, it was a world they already knew, a world that was familiar from the sign's designs, names, artifacts, installations, and imagery. They were colorful, they were reflective, they were B L A C K. This show was a reminder that gentrification may try to erase the culture and memory of the Black communities that have lived in and built up these neighborhoods in L.A., but the community will not let that happen without a fight.

Halsey's work continues to circle around the massive problem South Central LA faces:
gentrification. As small mom and pop businesses are pushed out and large corporations takes over, Halsey "creates structures that ask us to see how she remembers what’s being erased."  

What I love about her work, she creates space for Black people in the same environments that excludes them. For those who do not see how communities of colors are effected and impacted by gentrification, this exhibition puts it in view. Her work allows viewers to see themselves both literally and figuratively.

From what I saw, the children and people who came to this exhibition saw themselves in her work. Isn't that what art is about? 

WATCH THIS walk through of Lauren halsey exhibition
read more about the exhibition