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Arts & Culture

Prospect 2 Spotlight: New Orleans African American Museum

Art Is . . ., an avant-garde project by artist Lorraine O’Grady, is on display at the New Orleans African American Museum as part of Prospect 2.

Art Is . . ., a work by acclaimed American artist Lorraine O’Grady, is currently on display at the New Orleans African American Museum as a part of Prospect 2. Each exhibit at this particular museum is housed in its own separate unit, causing the viewer to walk outside to view different artists, a clever way to not only see the art but to discover the grounds on which it’s showcased. The pink house is the designated Prospect 2 house, and is filled with pictures of O’Grady’s project.

New Orleans African American Museum Prospect 2 site

Art Is . . . actually took place in fall of 1983 in New York at the Harlem African American Day Parade, but the photographic prints were not developed until a couple of years ago. According to the information available at the museum, O’Grady considers Art Is . . . her most “immediately successful piece.”

Dancers frame the parade-watchers as a part of "Art Is . . ."
Float with 9x15" frame mounted on it

The inspiration was this: someone made a comment to O’Grady about how “avant-garde art doesn’t have anything to do with black people.” She was challenged, and set about to find a way to tie in an avant-garde art project with a black audience. Funded by grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, the project turned out to be a parade, featuring 15 young actors and dancers dressed entirely in white. The dancers carried large gold picture frames and marched alongside a large float with a 9×15 gold frame mounted on top of it, using their frames to “capture” the audience and themselves and shouting things like, “Frame me! Make me art!” and “We’re the art!”

I was drawn to this exhibit because New Orleans is an extremely culturally diverse city and I found not only Art Is . . ., but all of the art at the African American Museum relevant and interesting. Also, quite obviously, we are a city that loves a parade, for any reason or holiday, and I can imagine a project like Art Is . . . taking place right here in New Orleans.

Art Is… is on display until January 29. See the New Orleans African American Museum website for hours. All photos by Nikki Carter.

This article is part of a series on Prospect 2. You can also read about the exhibits at The Ogden, New Orleans Museum of Art, Contemporary Arts Center, and the now-closed Music Box.

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