Lorraine O'Grady "Art is..." Postcard Deck

"Art Is. . ., a joyful performance in Harlem’s African-American Day Parade, September 1983, was, from the point of view of the work’s connection with its audience, O’Grady’s most immediately successful piece. It’s impetus had been to answer the challenge of a non-artist acquaintance that “avant-garde art doesn’t have anything to do with black people.”

O’Grady’s response was to put avant-garde art into the largest black space she could think of, the million-plus viewers of the parade, to prove her friend wrong. It was a risk, since there was no guarantee the move would actually work. As a black Boston Brahman cum Greenwich Village bohemian, with roots in West Indian carnival, for O’Grady the Harlem marching-band parade was alien territory. But the performance was undertaken in a spirit of elation which carried over on the day.

Unlike the disappointment she’d felt with Mlle Bourgeoise Noire and The Black and White Show, this piece was to be about art, not about the art world. . . rather than an invasion, it was more a crashing of the party."


40 Postcard Deck enclosed with Magnetic Closure

Lorraine O’Grady, Art Is . . ., 1983/2009
C-print in 40 parts, 16 × 20 in., Edition of 8 + 1 AP
The Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum purchase and gift of the artist in honor of the Harlem community 2016.5a
© Lorraine O’Grady / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York