A new Frye Museum exhibit showcases a sense of a brotherly and artistic energy, titled “Young Blood: Noah Davis, Kahlil Joseph, The Underground Museum.”
In an untitled documentary that is part of a new exhibit at The Frye Museum, painter Noah Davis stands in front of a large canvas, working away.
Then something shifts. He stands back, takes in his work, then drops his brush and walks out of the frame.
The camera stays on the abandoned painting, the space where Davis once stood, and for a moment, it is just you and the man behind the lens: Davis’ brother, the filmmaker Kahlil Joseph.
IF YOU GO ‘Young Blood: Noah Davis, Kahlil Joseph, The Underground Museum’ Through June 19
Through June 19, Frye Art Museum
704 Terry Ave., Seattle; free
(206-622-9250 or fryemuseum.org).
You feel for Joseph in that moment, knowing that Davis died of a rare cancer last fall.
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That intimacy, and sense of a brotherly and artistic energy, carries through the rest of the exhibit, titled “Young Blood: Noah Davis, Kahlil Joseph, The Underground Museum.”
Noah was a celebrated painter who died in September at the age of 32. Kahlil has carried on, and in an increasingly big way. He was one of seven directors who worked on Beyonce’s visual album, “Lemonade,” which debuted on HBO last weekend to much fanfare and fuss.
Both Noah and Kahlil are from Seattle, where they were nurtured by their parents, the late attorney Keven Davis and his wife, Faith Childs-Davis, a teacher and education administrator. (Kahlil dropped Davis and instead uses his middle name).
“Young Blood” marks the first time the brothers’ work has been exhibited together on such a large scale, and walking through the Frye, you can feel how they breathed the same inspired air while choosing different mediums. And you marvel at how much talent could be shared between two siblings.
“You’re not going to experience people who have been at seminal points in each other’s creative development, working together, so seamlessly,” said Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, the curator of the exhibit, who first met the brothers at St. Therese Catholic Academy in Madrona. (Alley-Barnes was six years older than Kahlil.)
It makes sense that “Young Blood” (a name Kahlil used to call Noah) would open at The Frye, just a stone’s throw from their alma mater, O’Dea High School.
“This is absolutely a celebration of brilliance that came out of here,” said Alley-Barnes, an artist in his own right who exhibited at the Frye in 2014 with his father, Curtis R. Barnes. “It’s a perfect storm.”
Still, he said, he is surprised to see it finally happen, to see Noah’s paintings across the hall from Kahlil’s films. The brothers being honored, together, in their hometown.
“Seattle has a bad history of not recognizing that brilliance until it gets canonized elsewhere,” Alley-Barnes said.
The brothers left Seattle after high school, when Noah headed to New York City to attend college at The Cooper Union, and Kahlil went to California to study at Loyola Marymount University.
Noah developed his art and finally settled in Los Angeles. His work was shown in museums all over the country, and was included in the landmark exhibition, “30 Americans,” a celebration of the most important African-American artists of the last three decades.
In 2012, he and his wife, Karon, founded The Underground Museum, a nonprofit art space in Arlington Heights. They organized eclectic shows, including their own work, and were able to borrow from the permanent collection of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).
His work is on view at The Underground Museum and Theaster Gates’ Rebuild Foundation space in Chicago.
Kahlil, 34, worked as a production assistant on music videos and with visual artists before spending four years editing film for director Terrence Malick in Texas. Once back in Los Angeles, his career took off.
He worked with Kendrick Lamar on Lamar’s 15-minute-long ode to Compton, “m.A.A.d.” It debuted in 2014 at the Sundance NEXT Fest, which described it as “a kaleidoscope of story lines and ideas that defy typical categorization to explore new languages and new forms.”
Kahlil’s short film “Until the Quiet Comes,” featuring music from The Flying Lotus, won the Grand Jury Prize for Short Films at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and has almost 3 million views on YouTube.
He directed a live version of Arcade Fire’s song “Afterlife”; directed FKA Twigs’“Video Girl” and two videos for the experimental hip-hop group Shabazz Palaces: “Belhaven Meridian” in 2010 and “Black Up” in 2012. (Alley-Barnes was a production designer on “Belhaven Meridian.”)
And he received the 2016 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.
“Noah has been recognized as a fine artist of some note for nearly a decade,” Alley-Barnes said. “Kahlil is really just coming to think of himself as a fine artist, though people around him have always said he is very painterly and artistic in his filmmaking.”
The timing of “Young Blood” couldn’t be better. It opened just before Beyonce’s “Lemonade” hit, which brought attention to her directors, particularly Kahlil Joseph.
(Said Indiewire: “Kahlil Joseph’s rise to the top has been so fast that the Internet hasn’t had time to catch up to him.”)
With “Young Blood,” the Seattle community will have its time with him and with his brother. You can stand before Noah’s paintings featuring friends and family members, such as “Man with Shotgun and Alien,” featuring his brother; and “Isis,” depicting his wife as the mythological figure, but in a contemporary setting.
Just steps away, in a darkened room or through a pair of black curtains, you can watch “Wildcat,” a haunting, three-channel film from the Grayson rodeo in Oklahoma that looks otherworldly, or “Alice (you don’t have to think about it),” an 18-minute film of the singer Alice Smith that dances around her features, intimately capturing an artist at work — and mourning her grandmother.
Alley-Barnes considers the brothers “modern masters,” a gifted addition to Seattle’s African-American artistic legacy.
He cited Seattle musical artists such as Shabazz Palaces, Thee Satisfaction and Jimi Hendrix. And he mentioned the Omowale mural created by his parents, Curtis R. and Royal Alley-Barnes, in the early 1970s. It covered the walls around the Medgar Evers Pool and was removed in 1995 after the elements destroyed it and restoration money couldn’t be raised.
“All of these things aren’t disparate realities,” Alley-Barnes said. “To be able to continue to honor these modern masters is just an extension of the things we have been doing in this space, and in the world.
“This show actually has a soul,” he said. “And that’s remarkable.”