Noir in the Bronx : Capturing the Melodrama

Red Sin, Boo Lynn Walsh, digital photograph 2016

It really didn’t take much to get a reaction – once I said “noir” it all tumbled out of her, like the lock of blonde hair that obscured her right eye:  cynical detectives, cheap hotels, lonely dames, traitors, tough gumshoes running down dark, rainy streets, chasing after clues that proved as elusive as the Yeti…

Noir as a genre elicits visceral responses: a certain frisson … a hint of danger … the thrill of trying to figure out whodunnit …  fathoming why …  It immediately conjures up that distinct iconography of grittiness, isolation and strict social roles embodied in classic films such as Double Indemnity, or the stories of Raymond Chandler.  Back in September, Longwood Arts Gallery issued a call for artworks that define noir, and the results are on display in Noir: Defining the Melodrama. The exhibit of almost 40 works contains primarily photographs and oil paintings, but you’ll also find some in ink, graphite and video.  Below are  highlights.

Alyssa Clear with her digital photograph, How I Dissolved My Marriage No. 8, 2016

Alyssa Clear plays the pin up girls and femme fatales who populate her photo scenarios  based on  true crime stories, giving them a voyeuristic, glamorized view.  You can find more of her work on her Instagram feed, Arsenous Apple Pie 

Nikki Johnson with The Pursuit of Happine$$, 2014, C-print on metal

Photographer Nikki Johnson is a fan of film and literary noir, especially Alfred Hitchcock and James Ellroy.  For her, it starts with the concept of a plan, where something goes awry, so she often shoots street scenes at night.  Her piece, the Pursuit of Happine$$, speaks to sex, intrigue and proposition…

Rasheed Humphrey with Woman at the Bar, 2014 digital print

Detective and the Dame, Rasheed Humphrey, chalk pastel on paper, 2016

Rasheed Humphrey was inspired by old films he was watching; he made sketches, then worked out the lighting, scanned the drawings, then painted over in chalk pastel.  The technique he employs as a comic book artist clearly suffuses his work, with its clean lines and bright colors.

Prospect Station, Daniel Hauben, oil on canvas, 1994

I liked Daniel Hauben’s use of  strong, directional brush strokes and the way he layered the paint to convey the grittiness of the sidewalk in his oil painting of Prospect Station.

In the exhibit you’ll also find Jeanette May’s humorous photos of toys murdered by pets that are a sly commentary on how TV cop shows have anesthetized our view of death;  Carey Clark’s photos of a set design she did 2 years ago  in Poland for a stage production of Goodbye My Lovely, which was cancelled 3 days before it was to open; and Néstor Daniel Pérez Molière’s  photographs of the folds of his body.  There’s also a video screen looping excerpts from classic noir films such as M, The Maltese Falcon and The Postman Always Rings Twice. And there’s more art.

On Wednesday, March 1st, at 6:30pm, Longwood Arts Gallery will host a discussion with visual artists Carey Clark, Jayson Keeling, Jeanette May and Jaimie Permuth, who will talk about the stories behind their photos and how they relate to the overall theme of the show. 

The show continues on through May 3rd, at the Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos, 450 Grand Concourse (149th Street) in the Bronx.

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