Lorraine O'Grady

'From Me to Them to Me Again'

The SCAD Museum of Art presents an exhibition by Lorraine O'Grady, which brings together two major works in the artist's oeuvre. "From Me to Them to Me Again" showcases her single-channel video "Landscape (Western Hemisphere)" and a new series of haiku diptychs created by radically selecting and recombining individual panels from her earlier series of newspaper poems "Cutting Out the New York Times," to achieve a totally new work in intellectual intention and aesthetic scope, published in 2017 as the large -scale editioned prints of her new series "Cutting Out CONYT." The title of the exhibition references O'Grady's concern with the cyclical, interrogative way she revisits her own work in ongoing efforts to unlock new meaning and examine the relationship between the artist, her output, art institutions and the public.

Lorraine O’Grady, "Cutting Out CONYT, Haiku Diptych 10," Japanese paper with letterpress printing, cut-out and collaged on laid paper, 1977/2017. Two panels, each 30" x 40", framed size: 62" x 42". Edition of 12 with 1AP. Courtesy of the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York © 2018 Lorraine O’Grady / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Lorraine O’Grady, "Cutting Out CONYT, Haiku Diptych 10," Japanese paper with letterpress printing, cut-out and collaged on laid paper, 1977/2017. Two panels, each 30" x 40", framed size: 62" x 42". Edition of 12 with 1AP. Courtesy of the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York © 2018 Lorraine O’Grady / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Text and language feature strongly in O'Grady's evolution from a young intelligence analyst for the departments of Labor and State during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, to her careers in teaching, writing and artmaking. In her series "Cutting Out CONYT," she observed that she embarked on the project "as a writer and ended it as an artist." To create the original series, O'Grady manipulated headings, words and phrases from The New York Times over 26 consecutive Sundays to create new poetic assemblages that reference Dada, Surrealism and concrete poetry. However, unlike the embrace of the irrational by the Dadas (whose work she was teaching at the time at the School of Visual Arts in New York), O'Grady strived for new meaning. Equally important in the later, more fully imagined series, Cutting Out CONYT, is the diptych as form, which brings two elements together to create ceaseless exchange. Conceptually for O'Grady, the diptych is a device for critique, where "there's no being saved, no before and after, no either/or; it's both/and, at the same time. With no resolution, you just have to stand there and deal."

"Landscape (Western Hemisphere)" is a richly textured, black- and- white in color film that closely traces the artist's hair moving and shifting, and is set to a changing, subtle soundscape of the outside world. The film is a metaphoric, contemplative work, which invokes more than it describes or prescribes. The geographical reference of the title contrasts the vastness of the land summoned and the intimacy and closeness of the camera to the artist's person. The camera is not neutral – it records, keeps what it sees, and is therefore a stratagem that allows for analysis and classification. O'Grady invites the viewer to search for clues within this abstracted closeup of her body.

The installation of "From Me to Them to Me Again" has been calibrated, like the diptych form itself, to create tensions and relationships between two distinct works in different genres produced more than two decades apart. They form bookends within the artist's oeuvre: separate, but related and dependent on each other. The structure of the diptych is a frequent motif in O'Grady's work and allows her to question apparent oppositions between her apparently different voice while maintaining their productive tensions. Siting her work in the interstitial space between personal and political, inner and outer, post-black and black, for O'Grady the two unusually beautiful works on exhibit here also bring into play her nuanced considerations of identity and the specter of race in the present. She has sometimes described herself as having been 'post-black' before she was 'black,' but more often considers blackness and post-blackness as oscillating states. "Cutting Out CONYT" and "Landscape (Western Hemisphere)" explore the shifts between these two states and many other shifts, in an attempt to undermine the predications of the artworld and its attendant value systems, in addition to those of the larger world.

About the artist

O'Grady is an artist and critic whose installations, performances and texts address issues of diaspora, hybridity and black female subjectivity, with special reference to the role these have played in the history of modernism. The New York Times in 2006 called O'Grady "one of the most interesting American conceptual artists around." And in 2007 "Mlle Bourgeoise Noire," her landmark 1980 performance initiated five years before the founding of the anonymous feminist art collective the Guerrilla Girls, was made an entry point to "WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution," the first major museum exhibition of this groundbreaking art movement. Since then, O'Grady's career has expanded exponentially with inclusions in such significant group shows as the Whitney Biennial; the Paris Triennale; "This Will have Been: Art Love and Politics in the 1980s," Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Illinois; "Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art," Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Texas; and "En Mas': Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean," Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans Louisiana and with acquisitions by the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Art Institute of Chicago, among many others.

Programs and events

Credits

"From Me to Them to Me Again" is curated by Storm Janse van Rensburg, SCAD head curator of exhibitions.

Museum Admission

The exhibition is free for all museum members and SCAD Card holders. Open to the public with the cost of museum admission.

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