Lorraine O’Grady

Exhibition: Jul 12 – Sep 9, 2007

Lorraine O’Grady’s Persistent, co-produced by Jay Lopez, is a eulogy to the recently closed Davenport Lounge in San Antonio and the culture it came to embody. The imposing installation, with its accompanying audio and video projections, demonstrates the kaleidoscopic generation and repression of multiethnic counterculture.

The twilight street scene environment recalls the artist’s first visit to the nightclub two months after it had been shut down. Upon entry, one encounters an austere façade, dimly lit by floodlights and revealing only the viewer’s reflection. O’Grady has superimposed this portrait of the spectator onto the building to evoke a sense of personal loss, inviting us to mourn the destruction of a space that so many had once enlivened in a free expression of the beauty found in diversity.

One must peer into the windows, almost pressing one’s nose against the glass, to see within O’Grady’s nightclub. The sparse interior features carefully arranged clusters of Art Deco furniture and empty Davenport lounges. On the walls, ghostlike projections of Hip Hop, Funk, and House Music dancers energetically move in sync with the pulsating music. Emerging as a contemporary manifestation of Egyptian funerary monuments, the exhibition evokes the riches of a bygone era and the eminence of what has been lost.

The fusion of rhythms that resonate from the edifice are vibrant, yet melancholic, in their repetition. Composed by the DJ’s Rise and JJ Lopez, the mix sporadically fluctuates in volume, mimicking the sounds emitted from opening and closing club doors–a nod to the lines of Davenport patrons that used to wrap around the city block. The loop begins with an upbeat and energetic tempo that quickly diminishes and then rises once again, symbolizing the rise and fall of the Davenport Lounge. This Hip Hop funeral anthem both heralds DJ culture, underlining its presence as a profession that combines the artistic efforts of myriad peoples, and memorializes what Barbara Ehrenreich has called “the need for public, celebratory dance that seems hardwired into us. . . a uniquely human capability.”

O’Grady’s installation symbolizes neither failure nor success, but the perseverance of counterculture in the face of racism and discrimination.

-Emily Morrison


Lorraine O’Grady

New York, New York, USA

Lorraine O’Grady’s work as an artist, writer, and critic presents hybridized notions of beauty and identity to rediagram the politics of diaspora. Since the early 1980s, O’Grady has challenged racial and sexist ideologies in performances and photo installations that combine both opposition to philosophies of division and exclusion, and humanist studies of women throughout history.
In Miscegenated Family Album (1980-1988), the artist created a series of diptychs, juxtaposing photographs of her sister and nieces with images of Egyptian queen Nefertiti and her daughters. The obvious visual resemblance makes evident the continuity of a shared cultural heritage across thousands of generations, connecting the histories of countless peoples.
Lorraine O’Grady was born in Boston, MA, and currently lives and works in New York, NY. Selected solo projects have been presented at Galerie Fotohof, Salzburg, Austria (1999); Thomas Erben Gallery, New York, NY (1998); and The Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (1996), among others. O’Grady’s work has also been included in Between the Lines, Daniel Reich Gallery Temporary Space at Hotel Chelsea, New York, NY (2006);Love Supreme, La Criée centre d’art contemporain, Rennes, France (2001); and Déjà Vu: Reworking the Past, Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY (2000).

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James Rondeau

Chicago, Illinois, USA

James Rondeau heads the Department of Contemporary Art at The Art Institute of Chicago. Since joining The Art Institute in 1998 he has organized solo exhibitions with Stan Douglas, Marlene Dumas, Olafur Eliasson, Thomas Hirschhorn, Mark Manders, and Shirin Neshat, among others. Previously Rondeau was a Curator at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, where he organized numerous exhibitions, including The LeWitt Collection, Byron Kim, and Pipilotti Rist. Rondeau was a commissioner and co-curator of Robert Gober’s presentation for the United States Pavilion of the 49th Venice Biennial, Italy in 2001, and has served as both a curator and panelist for Art Basel.
Photo courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

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