Mariane Ibrahim to Represent Lorraine O'Grady

Lorraine O'Grady | Representation
Mariane Ibrahim Gallery is honored to announce its representation of distinguished New York-based artist Lorraine O'Grady. For over four decades, O’Grady’s rigorous concept-based practice and cultural criticism have positioned her as one of the art world’s leading intellectual voices. Working across media and disciplines––including writing, photography, performance, curating, installation, and video––O’Grady challenges artistic and cultural conventions through her incisive critique of the binary logic inherent in Western thought. She skillfully deploys the diptych form to refute and subvert both the either/or logic of Western philosophy and, by extension, the prevailing understanding around gender, race, and class. Over the course of her illustrious career, she has advocated for an anti-hierarchical approach to difference that follows the reasoning of both/and.
O’Grady is singularly one of the most influential artists and thinkers of her generation. From her earliest work, Cutting Out the New York Times (1977), to more recent series like Family Portraits (2020), O’Grady expands the possibilities of conceptual art and institutional critique through her profound explorations of hybridism and multiplicity. And in landmark performances, such as Mlle Bourgeoise Noire (1980–83) and Art Is… (1983), she pointedly delved into the political and aesthetic complexities of an art world she experienced as persistently segregated. In writings such as “Olympia’s Maid: Reclaiming Black Female Subjectivity,” an influential essay of cultural criticism published in 1992 and expanded in 1994, O’Grady shapes the theoretical contours of a body of work that has been groundbreaking in its charting of the emergence of Black subjectivity in both artistic modernism and Western modernity as a whole.
Since before 2017, O’Grady has been developing a new body of work, an update of Mlle Bourgeoise Noire which centers on a new persona, that of The Knight. The Knight, or Lancela Palm-and-Steel, is inspired by the stories of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, Joan of Arc, and Don Quixote, and also by Caribbean masquerade traditions, including the characters of “Courtier,” “Pitchy-Patchy,” and “Actor Boy” from the Jonkonnu festival of Jamaica. Like Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, The Knight, too, will embark on a series of actions ranging from self-exploration to cultural critique, documented in both film and photography. As both art and cultural criticism, her new work is characteristic in its probing of complex and perhaps irresolvable questions. In her voice, “If you conceal everything–race, class, age, gender–what is left? What is possible?”
“From my formative years at Girls Latin School in Boston to the present day, I have always carved my own path via agency and self-empowerment. When the opportunity to work with Mariane Ibrahim Gallery presented itself, I knew this was what I had been envisioning in a commercial partner. Mariane is a trailblazer who has forged her own path in this industry and who can bring greater visibility to my art nationally and internationally. I am energized by this new chapter and by seeing my legacy continue to unfold to new levels,” shares Lorraine O’Grady.
The gallery will launch its partnership with O’Grady with a major, expansive presentation of the artist’s iconic work in Chicago, April 2024.
“Lorraine’s artistic journey has been marked by resilience, innovation, and a profound exploration of identity, culture, and history. I am excited and eager to champion and honor Lorraine’s legacy. I see a parallel in our histories,” states Mariane Ibrahim.
Perhaps her most significant series, Rivers, First Draft (1982) is currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art in the exhibition, Inheritance (through February 2024). Also in 2024, O’Grady’s work will be at Davis Museum, Wellesley College, in her retrospective Lorraine O’Grady: Both/And traveling since its initial presentation at the Brooklyn Museum in 2021. A book of her collected writings, Writing in Space, 1973–2019, was published in 2020 by Duke University Press.

About Lorraine O’Grady:

Lorraine O’Grady was born in Boston to West Indian parents. A talented scholar, she was educated at the elite Girls Latin School before studying economics and Spanish literature at Wellesley College (class of 1955). While still a student, she passed the US government’s challenging Management Intern Program (MIP) exam and worked as a Research Economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1961, O’Grady left her post at the Department of Labor to write fiction, ultimately entering the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1965. By 1968, she was working in Chicago at a commercial translation agency while volunteering for Jesse Jackson and his organization Operation Breadbasket. However, after opening her own translation agency and fulfilling major contracts for Playboy and Encyclopædia Britannica, she decided to leave her career as a translator. In 1973, O’Grady moved to New York and became a critic for Rolling Stone and The Village Voice, reviewing acts like the Allman Brothers, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Sly and The Family Stone. After growing dissatisfied with her role in the music world, she accepted an offer to teach literature at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). There, she describes, “I felt I was home. I knew I was an artist.”


O’Grady has made important contributions to cultural criticism through both her art and her writing. In 1994, she doubled the length of her 1992 essay “Olympia’s Maid” by adding a remarkable “Postscript,” in which she expanded the argument on Black female subjectivity with her pathbreaking theorizing of the Both/And. O’Grady also launched an artist website In 2008 that serves as a living public archive. And in 2012, she donated her analogue archive to Wellesley College, making it available for research to the student body and general public at large.


O’Grady has been the subject of numerous one-person exhibits. Her retrospective, Lorraine O’Grady: Both/And, Brooklyn Museum (2021), traveled to the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, NC (2022) and will be re-staged at the Davis Museum of Wellesley College in 2024. Other solo shows include: From Me to Them to Me Again, Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, GA (2018); Family Gained, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2018); Lorraine O’Grady: Initial Recognition, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Monastery of Santa María de las Cuevas, Seville, Spain (2016); and Lorraine O’Grady: When Margins Become Centers, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2015). Her work has also been included in exceptionally  significant group exhibitions, such as Inheritance, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2023); Just Above Midtown: 1974 to the Present, Museum of Modern Art,  New York (2022); Michael Jackson: On the Wall, National Portrait Gallery, London (2018), which traveled to  Grand Palais, Paris (2018), The Bundeskunsthalle (National Art Museum), Bonn, Germany (2019), and Espoo Museum of  Modern Art, Finland (2019); Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Tate Modern, London (2017), which traveled to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AK (2018), Brooklyn Museum, NY  (2018), The Broad, Los Angeles (2019), de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA  (2019), and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX (2020); and We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965–85, Brooklyn Museum, NY (2017), which traveled to California African American Museum, Los Angeles (2017), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (2018), and the Institute of Contemporary Art , Boston (2018).


Her work is represented in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Brooklyn Museum, NY; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Tate Modern, London, among many others. She has received numerous awards, including the 2023 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Art; a 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art; the Skowhegan Medal for Conceptual and Cross-Disciplinary Practices (2019); a 2015 Creative Capital Award in Visual Art; a Lifetime Achievement Award  from Howard University, Washington, D.C. (2015); the Distinguished Feminist Award, College Art  Association, New York (2014); an Art Matters grant (2011); a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship  (2011); and the Anonymous Was A Woman Award (2008), among others.

September 5, 2023