A Walk Through the World of Lorraine O’Grady
by Heather Kapplow, 2015
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — When visiting an art exhibit, there’s a temptation to start at the entryway and work your way through it following the path established by the curator.
In the case of Lorraine O’Grady’s Where Margins Become Centers, at Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (CCVA), resist the tyranny of convention and signage and enter via the back door.
Start with as little interpretation as possible. Sit in the dark on a bench for an entire 18 minutes, if you can spare them, and watch item #10 (of 10) on the exhibition checklist available in the catalogue downstairs and at the guard’s station at the main entrance to the gallery. In fact, open the publication, point to item #10 on the checklist, and ask the guard to direct you towards the back door to the piece to avoid being drawn in the intended way.
Lorraine O’Grady, “Landscape (Western Hemisphere)” (still, 2010/2011), single-channel video for projection, 18 min (image courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York) “Landscape (Western Hemisphere)” (2010/2011) consists of close-up footage of O’Grady’s hair and scalp paired with what seem to be a few varieties of ambient sound. It’s the climax of the show, but also the best way to prime yourself to absorb the rest of the show’s content as completely as possible.
If you move through things the way you’re supposed to, you’ll get caught up in the mathematics of identity, in the rights and wrongs of the art world, and in the aesthetics of documentation as art; “Landscape” will end up serving as a catharsis for all of the complexity and tension raised. (…)