Skip to Main Content

Exhibition Spotlight: Lorraine O’Grady and Just Above Midtown Gallery in We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85

March 26, 2018

Lorraine O’Grady (American, born 1934). Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Goes to the New Museum, 1981. Performed at the New Museum, New York. Gelatin silver print, 9 1/4 x 7 inches (23.6 x 17.8 cm). Courtesy of Alexander Gray Associates. © 2017 Lorraine O’Grady / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In 1974, Linda Goode Bryant founded Just Above Midtown Gallery (JAM) on West 57th Street, at the time the heart of New York’s commercial art world. JAM’s mission was to provide a platform for the exhibition and sale of work by black artists equal to the venues available to their white counterparts. The gallery focused on artists working in noncommercial, nonrepresentational styles, including Maren Hassinger, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, and Howardena Pindell.

At center, Lorraine O’Grady’s Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Costume, 1980, on view in We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, February 17–May 27, 2018). 

JAM was also one of the sites of O’Grady’s first public performance, Mlle Bourgeoise Noire. Dressed in an elaborate costume made of 180 pairs of white gloves and carrying a cat-o’-nine-tails whip made from sail rope studded with white chrysanthemums, O’Grady made uninvited appearances at openings at JAM and the New Museum of Contemporary Art as the farcical and indicting persona Miss Black Middle Class 1955, demanding attention for black women artists.