WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution. "Class photo," 2007. Lorraine O'Grady, fifth from right. Photo: Brian Forrest
LORRAINE O'GRADY was born in Boston in 1934 and educated at Wellesley College. After careers as a research economist, translator, and rock critic, she began making art in 1980, when she first performed her art-critical persona Mlle Bourgeoise Noire. O’Grady’s work as a conceptual artist using performance, photo-installation, video and other media incisively addresses personal and cultural issues such as diaspora, hybridity, and black female subjectivity from the perspective of art criticism. Restlessly experimental, O’Grady employs a range of borrowings, both from early modernist Futurism, Dada and Surrealism, all of which she has taught extensively, as well as from post-modernist appropriation. Works which may have apparently different surfaces, however, are invariably characterized by a unique amalgam of formal elegance and beauty with strong and sometimes abrasive political content. O'Grady believes there is no inherent contradiction between beauty and politics since elegance is an enduring quality of black
style that remains politically malleable. The diptych is another of her continuing motifs, used as a refusal of simplistic resolution in the work and at the same time as a “both/and” critique of the “either/or” dualism of Western philosophy. In addition to her work as a visual artist, O’Grady has also made innovative contributions to cultural criticism with her writings, including the now canonical article, "Olympia's Maid: Reclaiming Black Female Subjectivity." Current projects include work based on the relationship of Charles Baudelaire, the founder of modernism, and his black common-law wife Jeanne Duval. In 2006, Holland Cotter, writing in The New York Times, called O’Grady “one of the most interesting conceptualists around.” And in 2007, her performance Mlle Bourgeoise Noire was made one of the entry points to the groundbreaking WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, the first major museum exhibit of one of the 20th century’s most important art movements.
© 2009 Lorraine O'Grady | All rights reserved.