Over a four decade practice that spans video works, photographs, photomontage, poetry, and public art, Lorraine O’Grady has established herself as a grand dame of performance, feminist, and conceptual art via the intersectional lenses of race, sex, and institutional critique. Fittingly, “Both/And,” her first-ever comprehensive retrospective, sprawls in six sections across the Brooklyn Museum’s Feminist Art, European Art, Ancient Egyptian Art, and Art of the Americas galleries, where her works are embedded in the collections. O’Grady’s iconic Miscegenated Family Album (1980/1994), which juxtaposes photographs of her own family with those of the busts of Queen Nefertiti, can be found in the Ancient Egyptian gallery.
The exhibition’s title, “Both/And,” asserts the artist’s goal of dismantling zero sum thinking: it is the very opposite of the exclusive “either/or.” At the same time, it also hints at the doubled exclusions of O’Grady’s experience. The 1982 performance Rivers, First Draft, for instance, delves into her rejection by both white and Black communities, the former, for her race, and the latter, her gender. Attuned to art and aesthetics in its manifold forms, O’Grady’s work delights in the frisson of unresolved or seemingly contradictory ideas; this unusual retrospective revels in them, too.
Lorraine O’Grady,(American, born 1934). Rivers, First Draft: The Woman in Red starts painting the stove her own color, 1982/2015. Digital chromogenic print from Kodachrome 35mm slides in 48 parts, 16 × 20 in. (40.64 × 50.8 cm). Edition of 8 + 2 AP. Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York. © Lorraine O’Grady/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.