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Virtual Raleigh exhibit features artwork inspired by film noir


"Out of Darkness," a virtual exhibition at Block Gallery in Raleigh, features photographs and videos inspired by film noir and will be viewable online until January 15. Photo courtesy of Stacy Bloom Rexrode.

"Out of Darkness," a virtual exhibition at Block Gallery in Raleigh that opened last month, features photographs and videos inspired by film noir, a style of dark Hollywood film. 

The exhibition will be on display online until Jan. 15.

In addition to the low-budget aspect of film noir, the style usually incorporates the use of low-key lighting, off-angle and deep-focus camera shots and stark chiaroscuro, a technique that emphasizes contrasting light and darkness. Although there is a variety of techniques and styles used by the different artists in the exhibition, each of their images evokes a shared sense of mystery and isolation that is also common in the film noir style.

Stacy Bloom Rexrode, the curator of exhibitions and collections for Raleigh Arts, said the idea for this exhibition came from an earlier social media project focusing on how artists were adapting to life in quarantine. After seeing the pandemic’s impact on artistic practice, Rexrode decided on a theme for the exhibition.  

“I thought paying homage to film noir through photography made perfect sense considering the genre first came about following World War II and was a result of artists making due with minimal equipment and limited resources,” Rexrode said. 

"Out of Darkness" is juried by George Jenne, who graduated from UNC with a Master of Fine Arts in studio art in 2013 and serves as the director of Lump Projects, a nonprofit gallery in Raleigh.  Jenne is a huge fan of film noir himself and said it plays a role in the basic training of every filmmaker.  

“I don’t know many film veterans who can’t rattle off a long list of their favorites,” Jenne said. “I also think it’s an apt subject for the time. The art world is in crisis due to the pandemic and serious issues of equity, so purse strings are short across the board.”

As the juror of the exhibition, Jenne’s duties include viewing applications and selecting artists to be featured in the show. When considering submissions, Jenne says he focused more on the allure of the photographs rather than the quality of their execution. 

 “I mean, they can’t be terrible, but the concept is what’s really important,” he said. “Then I try to narrow it down to work that conveys that its maker knows something that we don’t. I’m looking for something that hints that this person is operating on a different plane.”

There are eight artists featured in "Out of Darkness," including Adam Bellefeuil, Jimmy Fountain, Tama Hochbaum, Lindsay Metivier, JP Jermaine Powell, Xiaowei Wu and Shao Yixuan, and I’Nasah Crockett, who is being featured in an exhibition for the first time.  

Crockett, who is from Atlanta, describes her artistic style as instinctual, bringing hidden narratives to life in a visual form. She is inspired by Black history and the South and aims to capture the relationship between the two in her photography. 

“Black artists are currently experiencing a moment of heightened visibility, but I don't see as many people engaging the work of Black artists who don't focus on portraiture or figurative work,” Crockett said in an email. “I hope viewers of my work will allow themselves to have an experience they might not have anticipated.”

Although the pandemic has restricted artists' access to resources, Crockett is embracing shifting times.  

“I've become a lot more comfortable trusting the camera and myself to be able to create a photo that is rich in meaning even if it's not technically perfect,” she said. “I've also become way more interested in exploring and pushing the limits of instant film photography in a way I wasn't before — when darkrooms are shut down due to COVID, you do what you have to!”

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