A look into the work and career of artist Lorraine O’Grady is also a chronicle of the art world’s exclusionary politics. As Cassidy George writes in an article for Vogue: “O’Grady—both then and now—saw the city’s art scene for what it was: an elitist world defined by hierarchies of race, gender, and class. Eager to make a change, she resolved not just to enter the New York art world but to ‘invade’ it.” Since she decided to become an artist in the 1980’s, O’Grady has boldly challenged the whiteness and power dynamics of the art world, centering black lives in her art.
Now, at 86 years old and after four long decades as an artist, Lorraine O’Grady finally has her first Retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition, Lorraine O’Grady: Both/And, open March 5 – July 18, 2021, features twelve significant projects from O’Grady’s career, in addition to a new installation. The collection showcases O’Grady as a key figure of the conceptual, feminist and Black American avant-garde, and its name disavows our cultural tendency toward binary thinking.
The widespread positive critical reception and headlines on the exhibition have highlighted both the radical creativity and power of O’Grady’s art, and the continued relevance of her work in the current moment.
Here are just a few of the recent headlines:
Lorraine O’Grady, Still Cutting Into the Culture, The New York Times
Bliss and Anger in Balance: The Art of Lorraine O’Grady, The New York Times
Lorraine O’Grady’s First-Ever Retrospective Honors Her 40-Year Fight for Inclusion, Vogue
The Unparalleled Art of Lorraine O’Grady, The New Yorker
Just Watch Me: More than four decades into her trailblazing career, Lorraine O’Grady finally has the world’s attention, Vulture
Lorraine O’Grady’s First Retrospective Is Both Invigorating and Overdue, Hyperallergic
This fall, UC Press will be publishing Speaking Out of Turn: Lorraine O’Grady and the Art of Language by Stephanie Sparling Williams — the first monograph dedicated to the forty-year oeuvre of feminist conceptual artist Lorraine O’Grady. Author Stephanie Sparling Williams is Associate Curator at Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, Visiting Faculty in Art History at Mount Holyoke College, and Adjunct Faculty at Eastern Connecticut State University in the Department of Art and Art History.
Examining O’Grady’s use of language, both written and spoken, Stephanie Sparling Williams charts the artist’s strategic use of direct address—the dialectic posture her art takes in relationship to its viewers—to trouble the field of vision and claim a voice in the late 1970s to 1990s, when her voice was seen as “out of turn” in the art world.
Speaking Out of Turn situates O’Grady’s significant contributions within the history of American conceptualism and performance art, while also attending to the work’s heightened visibility in the contemporary moment, revealing both the marginalization of O’Grady in the past and an urgent need to revisit her art in the present.
“Following the thread of language through the entire course of Lorraine O’Grady’s extraordinary career, in this impressive monograph Stephanie Sparling Williams charts a rigorous, thrilling line through the work of one of the most significant artists of our time.” —Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator, Studio Museum in Harlem
“It is a rare treat to read a work about an iconic black feminist artist and critic written by an outstanding emerging black feminist artist and critic. Sparling Williams’s Speaking Out of Turn offers powerful commentary on, and a breathtaking compendium of, Lorraine O’Grady’s incomparable artistry. This book is undoubtedly one for the ages.”—Reiland Rabaka, author of The Negritude Movement and Forms of Fanonism