Art Is . . ., a work by acclaimed American artist Lorraine O’Grady, is currently on display at the New Orleans African American Museum as a part of Prospect 2. Each exhibit at this particular museum is housed in its own separate unit, causing the viewer to walk outside to view different artists, a clever way to not only see the art but to discover the grounds on which it’s showcased. The pink house is the designated Prospect 2 house, and is filled with pictures of O’Grady’s project.
Art Is . . . actually took place in fall of 1983 in New York at the Harlem African American Day Parade, but the photographic prints were not developed until a couple of years ago. According to the information available at the museum, O’Grady considers Art Is . . . her most “immediately successful piece.”
The inspiration was this: someone made a comment to O’Grady about how “avant-garde art doesn’t have anything to do with black people.” She was challenged, and set about to find a way to tie in an avant-garde art project with a black audience. Funded by grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, the project turned out to be a parade, featuring 15 young actors and dancers dressed entirely in white. The dancers carried large gold picture frames and marched alongside a large float with a 9×15 gold frame mounted on top of it, using their frames to “capture” the audience and themselves and shouting things like, “Frame me! Make me art!” and “We’re the art!”
I was drawn to this exhibit because New Orleans is an extremely culturally diverse city and I found not only Art Is . . ., but all of the art at the African American Museum relevant and interesting. Also, quite obviously, we are a city that loves a parade, for any reason or holiday, and I can imagine a project like Art Is . . . taking place right here in New Orleans.
Art Is… is on display until January 29. See the New Orleans African American Museum website for hours. All photos by Nikki Carter.