The Underground Museum

Editor's Note:  Washington Corridor between Crenshaw and Western is seeing a burst of new Art Gallery's. When galleries move in, community renewal often follows.  We are excited to bring attention to this activity and start with a report on The Underground Museum.

Among the used restaurant supply houses and church storefronts lining Washington Boulevard west of Crenshaw, three galleries have popped up lately, most notably The Underground Museum, an alternative art space and studio founded by successful artist Noah Davis and wife Karon Davis.

Known in the art world for his large scale figurative paintings, Noah Davis's work can be found in the collections of San Francisco MOMA, LACMA, and the Studio Museum of Harlem.  The thirty-something artist, who relocated to LA after graduating from the progressive Cooper Union School for the Advancement of Science and Art, was featured in the Corcoran Gallery's prestigious "30 Americans" exhibition, in addition to group shows at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Columbia University to cite a few.  

The site of a former pupuseria, the Underground Museum space between Crenshaw and Arlington Boulevards, was established by the Davis's to bring a high end non-profit gallery into a place devoid of cultural outlets within walking distance -- "an oasis," Karon describes.  "Grab a book, see a great show and hang in the Purple Garden [scheduled to open next year]" Karon encourages TNN readers.  Karon has lived in the area for years, going to USC.  Noah has long been interested in art serving a role in the community, completing a series of paintings last Summer inspired by the Pueblo del Rio housing complex designed by Richard Neutra and Paul R. Williams in 1942, and being heavily affected by a series of New York exhibitions about the destruction of high end art that has become more about affluence and influence than worthwhile message. Davis' series "Imitation of Wealth" was comprised of sculpture replicas of overpriced works by blue chip artists Jeff Koons and Donald Judd.

At 6,000 square feet, the huge Underground Museum was conceived by the Davis's to house more than his own work and studio-residence.  Since opening last year, the Museum has hosted several group exhibitions as well as offering performance art, film, plus a handsome library, sculpture garden shop and wellness programs open to the public. The Spring exhibition "Veils" curated by Jhordan Dahl and Ariana Papademetropolos featured icons Chris Burden and Wallace Berman as well as several emerging artists.  The recent "My Self is an Other" closing on November 22nd, was also guest curated.  Not to mention special events like a seance organized by artist Jeff Vallance calling up the spirit of Andy Warhol, or free guided meditation sessions designed to introduce as many West Adams residents as possible to the spiritual practice.  In the next show "Ouroboros" opening on January 15, paintings and sculptures by Grant Shumate will form the centerpiece of performances scheduled throughout the exhibition.

The Underground Museum joins the long-standing St. Elmo's Village in its mission to provide an experimental arts complex serving the local community.  It is committed to working with small local businesses and individuals in contracting jobs. 

Davis' paintings blend vintage and surrealist images with reference to the Black experience and serious art history.  For instance, his Osirus series shows an updated Egyptian goddess before a broken fan in a row house, and his "Just My Imagination"was based on the singing Temptations stage set which reminded him of a Sol Le Witt painting.  Davis and The Museum were the focus of an interview in the preeminent magazine Art in America in March 2013 on the eve of his solo exhibition at Roberts & Tilton gallery in Los Angeles.

Also filling out the burgeoning Washington Corridor art scene is the Martos Gallery at 3515 Washington just west of Arlington and a yet to be named gallery On Washington just east of Arlington. With three new galleries in the Arlington Heights district and the Culver City Arts District at the western end of Washington, is LA Council district 10 becoming the new Venice?

The Underground Museum at 3508 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, is open Wednesday through Sundays from noon to 6 pm.; phone (323) 989-9928 or go to for further information about program and performance schedules.

Photos by Dawn Kirkpatrick 




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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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