San Antonio Express-News, 2007

Exhibit reflects downtown dance club

by Dan R. Goddard, Express-News Staff Writer

New York artist Lorraine O’Grady has memorialized the Davenport, the downtown club that once occupied the space at North St. Mary’s and Houston streets and featured the city’s most innovative DJs.

You can dimly perceive dancers who seem to be floating in the air inside the dark club with heavily tinted windows and throbbing music set up in a downstairs gallery at Artpace. The installation, titled “Persistent,” is part of “New Works: 07.2.”

“It’s becoming a familiar story when the cost of real estate collides with parts of the culture that don’t always fit the landlord’s agenda,” O’Grady said. “I was responding to a story I read about the closing of the club. It seemed like one of the places in the city where all the races came together to dance.”

An African American artist who often deals with racial issues, O’Grady early in her career became somewhat infamous as Mademoiselle Bourgeoisie Noire, a whip-cracking alter ego who attacked racial divisions in the arts. She just finished spending five years teaching studio art and African American studies at the University of California-Irvine.

Recent projects include an examination of the relationship between the French writer Charles Baudelaire and his Haitian wife, Jeanne Duval, and a “Miscegenated Family Album,” about the resemblance of the women of O’Grady’s family to the Egyptian queen Nefertiti.

“But I never do the same thing twice,” O’Grady said. “For San Antonio, I just started Googling things I was interested in. At first, I started thinking about doing something with cowboy boots, but when I looked further and found out about the Davenport, I decided it was a story I could relate to because I started out as a rock critic.

“Now the music they played at the Davenport isn’t my music, but I can see how it helped to bring a lot of diverse people together.”

O’Grady managed to track down a dozen dancers who appeared ( … )

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