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Lorraine O'Grady

Body is the Ground of My Experience

1991/2019

Body/Ground (The Clearing: or Cortez and La Malinche. Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, N. and Me), 1991/2019

Body/Ground (The Clearing: or Cortez and La Malinche. Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, N. and Me), 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper
40h x 50w in

The Clearing (left panel): Green Love, 1991/2019

The Clearing (left panel): Green Love, 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper
40h x 50w in

The Clearing (right panel): Love in Black-and-White, 1991/2019

The Clearing (right panel): Love in Black-and-White, 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper
40h x 50w in

The Clearing, left detail, 1991/2019

The Clearing, left detail, 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper
40h x 50w in

The Clearing, right detail, 1991/2019

The Clearing, right detail, 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper
40h x 50w in

Dracula and the Artist (diptych), 1991/2019

Dracula and the Artist (diptych), 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper
40h x 50w in

Dreaming Dracula (left panel of "Dracula and the Artist"), 1991/2019

Dreaming Dracula (left panel of "Dracula and the Artist"), 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper
40h x 50w in

Dracula Vanquished by Art (right panel of "Dracula and the Artist"), 1991/2019

Dracula Vanquished by Art (right panel of "Dracula and the Artist"), 1991/2019
​Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper
40h x 50w in

The Fir-Palm, 1991/2019

The Fir-Palm, 1991/2019
​Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper
40h x 50w in

The Strange Taxi: From Africa to Jamaica to Boston in 200 years, 1991/2019

The Strange Taxi: From Africa to Jamaica to Boston in 200 years, 1991/2019
​Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper
40h x 50w in

Lilith Sends Out the Destroyers, 1991/2019

Lilith Sends Out the Destroyers, 1991/2019
​Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper
40h x 50w in

Gaze (quadriptych), 1991/2019

Gaze (quadriptych), 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts
24 x 19 1/4 in each
 

Gaze 1, 1991/2019

Gaze 1, 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts
24 x 19 1/4 in 

Gaze 2, 1991/2019 Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts

Gaze 2, 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts
24 x 19 1/4 in 

Gaze 3, 1991/2019

Gaze 3, 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts
24 x 19 1/4 in 

Gaze 4, 1991/2019 Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts

Gaze 4, 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts
24 x 19 1/4 in 

Dream (quadriptych), 1991/2019

Dream (quadriptych), 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts
24 x 19 1/4 in each

Dream 1, 1991/2019 Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts

Dream 1, 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts
24 x 19 1/4 in 

Dream 2, 1991/2019 Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts

Dream 2, 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts
24 x 19 1/4 in 

Dream 3, 1991/2019 Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts

Dream 3, 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts
24 x 19 1/4 in 

Dream 4, 1991/2019 Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts

Dream 4, 1991/2019
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Baryta pure cotton photo rag paper in four parts
24 x 19 1/4 in 

Description

BodyGround, shorthand for Body Is the Ground of My Experience, refers to the photomontages produced by O’Grady for her first one-person exhibit, at INTAR Gallery, NYC, Jan 21–Feb 22, 1991. The phrase doesn’t name a series — the works were unrelated — but rather the concern shaping O’Grady’s writing, thinking, and art-making at the time. The photomontages reprised several ideas from Rivers, First Draft in still form. Her move from performance to the wall had financial, personal, and theoretical motives. The work was growing both more direct and more complex and needed repeated viewings.

During her absence from the art world, O’Grady had become concerned about postmodernism’s over-simplifications which she felt re-located subjectivity away from the body to history in a way conveniently serving those in power. For while the body undoubtedly received history’s effects and was shaped by them, it was also, in an excess, the location of resistance. To make the point, her new photomontages — made the old-fashioned way just before Photoshop — eschewed both her earlier work’s layered beauty and postmodern photography’s dry formalism. Instead, they employed a psychological literalness reminiscent of Surrealism. In the Gaze and Dream quadriptychs, the bodies schematically enact both subjectivity’s stunting by history and latent resistance to it. And a group of three images, including The Strange Taxi and The Fir-Palm, employ a black body as a literal ground on which history acts but is unexpectedly modified.

O’Grady had not anticipated the intensely negative response, especially from white male viewers, to The Clearing, a diptych showing black and white bodies in what director John Waters calls “the last taboo.” One white male Harvard professor told her it was difficult to look at because it showed “how erotic domination is.” During this period, O’Grady experienced more success, especially with female audiences, via writings such as “Olympia’s Maid” and the articles in Artforum.