Unedited transcript for Performance Artists Talking in the Eighties — Montano’s questions on “ritual” cast interesting light on the connection between O’Grady’s early life and her performances. The unedited transcript of the interview contains answers in greater depth on Mlle Bourgeoise Noire and Nefertiti/Devonia Evangeline.
1980 – 1987
Unpublished letter re “Report from the East Village” — Unpublished letter re the omission of Kenkeleba Gallery and O’Grady’s The Black and White Show from the feature section, “Report from the East Village: Slouching Toward Avenue D,” in Art in America, Vol 72 No 6 (Summer 1984). Receipt not acknowledged.
Unpublished statement, for Tony Whitfield — A letter to Tony Whitfield in preparation for Just Above Midtown’s Afro- Pop catalogue interview is O’Grady’s most self-conscious to that point. Experiencing a lack of clear precedents for her work, in it she attempts to theorize her relationship to performance art and the paucity of role models, and to face the question of the audience for black avant-garde art.
Heresies #15: Racism Is the Issue — Published in the Heresies collective’s journal, this was O’Grady’s first attempt to deal publicly with issues of black female subjectivity. It is based firmly in personal anecdote and psychological description rather than the more theoretical analysis she would later employ.
Unpublished statement, for Judson Memorial Church, unsent — In writing a proposal to perform Rivers at Judson Memorial Church, a venue with important avant-garde history, O’Grady unexpectedly reached greater clarity on the spiritual aspects of her work, especially its forms.
Working script — O’Grady’s most autobiographical performance was a “three-ring” simultaneous narrative performed one time only in the Loch section of Central Park on August 18 for “Art Across the Park,” curated by Gilbert Coker and Horace Brockington. This script, redrafted until the day of performance, and a set of photo-documents are the only remains.
High Performance #17/18, Artist’s Chronicle — After a delay to see if the first chronicle on Mlle Bourgeoise Noire would be accepted by High Performance, a second on Nefertiti/Devonia Evangeline was submitted the following year — though it had in fact premiered at Just Above Midtown just 3 months later.
Unpublished statement, for Lucy Lippard — O’Grady early on felt the need, and was asked, to explain herself —as in this reply to a request by Lucy Lippard on politics in art. Lippard, curating “ACTING OUT: The first political performance art series,” had invited her to perform. The letter dated 1.1.81 addressed practical and other issues and became her first statement on performance art.
High Performance #13, Artist’s Chronicle — Her first submission to a performance art journal was a description of Mlle Bourgeoise Noire’s earliest appearance, a guerrilla action at Just Above Midtown, the country’s only black avant-garde art gallery.
“Dialogues,” Just Above Midtown Gallery — Patricia S. Jones discusses a downtown gallery performance series at Just Above Midtown, NYC, Oct 1980 in a late 70s-early 80s annual journal. Article makes special note of O’Grady’s first performance of Nefertiti/Devonia Evangeline.