Promotional image for the Block Gallery Exhibition Breathe: Life After Death. Photo features the faces of Clarence Heyward, JP Jermaine Powel, William Paul Thomas and Telvin Wallace with black masks on.

Breathe: Life After Death Exhibition Opens August 10

A Raleigh Arts Block Gallery Exhibition

Located in the Block Gallery
August 10 through September 18, 2020

Stay tuned for a virtual gallery page and virtual events coordinated by the Black on Black Project

Breathe: Life After Death is an exhibition and social exercise featuring four emerging African American North Carolina-based painters. The exhibition explores American life during and after the pandemic, worldwide protests for racial equality and the consequences of social distancing. In addition to other works, artists Clarence Heyward, JP Jermaine Powell, William Paul Thomas and Telvin Wallace each paint one of the other artists to showcase how they see each other and create an opportunity for being seen. The body of work aims to empower individuals in local communities through representation.

There is something authentic, as well as effectual, in these portraits. These subjects are deemed worthy enough to be painted and documented in a manner that can work to change the Western canon, which has historically dismissed black men and women from inclusion. In the past, they have been consistently rendered invisible from the standard that is accepted as exemplary or exceptional. Much like the uncomfortable feeling of being the only black person in a crowded room, the sparse depictions of racial minorities in our museums, galleries and cultural institutions leaves people of color without representation and feeling like outsiders. This systemic creation of otherness is used to deny the humanity of minorities and is at the root of racial injustice.

Heyward, Powell, Thomas and Wallace aim to create a space for conversation about their personal communities through intimate portraiture that encourages the viewer’s investigation. By painting subjects that reflect the artists’ own personal connections, they each find ways to celebrate black culture and mirror the broader interests of the community.

About the Artists

Clarence Heyward’s work investigates cultural truths, challenges stereotypes and questions identity. Clarence believes it’s important to “paint his truth” and uses persons of color as subjects in his work as homage to his culture.

JP Jermaine Powell paintings explore the complexities of human relationships, materialism, and consumerism.

William Paul Thomas’ work is centered on making images to record his life experiences and observations, with an approach that defies standard documentary practices. For over 10 years he has created intimate painted portraits of everyday people that he chooses as a way of recognizing their significance in his life’s path.

Telvin Wallace’s mesmerizing and psychologically charged work brings viewers face to face with contentious cultural issues while proclaiming the resilience of the human spirit. 

About Block Gallery

Connecting local artists to community through ongoing exhibitions and public outreach, the Block Gallery was dedicated in 2006 to honor Miriam Preston Block, a former Raleigh City Council member, and community leader. Located inside the Raleigh Municipal building and greeting all visitors to the Upchurch Government Complex, the gallery’s marble walls and elegant staircase provide an ideal setting for showcasing original artworks. Exhibits change every eight to 12 weeks.

About Raleigh Arts

Raleigh Arts, a part of the City of Raleigh’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department, fosters and promotes the arts in Raleigh by administering the programs of the Raleigh Arts Commission and the Public Art and Design Board and supporting the Pullen and Sertoma Arts Centers.



Stacy Bloom Rexrode
Curator of Exhibitions and Collections

Raleigh Municipal Building (RMB)