Judy Chicago returns to London after an absents of 23 years with two major new exhibitions. Chicago is a well known figure from the 1970’s who made an impact with her installation “The Dinner Party” a multi medium piece which used feminist imagery to form a massive ceremonial banquet, arranged on a triangular table with a total of thirty-nine place settings, each commemorating an important woman from history. The settings consist of embroidered runners, gold chalices and utensils, and china-painted porcelain plates with raised central motifs that are based on vulvar and butterfly forms and rendered in styles appropriate to the individual women being honored. The names of another 999 women are inscribed in gold on the white tile floor below the triangular table.
Chicago is an artist, author, feminist and educator whose career spans over five decades. Her influence both within and beyond the art community is attested to by her inclusion in hundreds of publications throughout the world. Her art has been frequently exhibited in the United States as well as in Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
In the early seventies after a decade of professional art practice, Chicago pioneered Feminist Art and art education through a unique program for women at California State University, Fresno, a pedagogical approach that she has continued to develop over the years. She then brought her program to Cal-Arts, where she team-taught with Miriam Schapiro, producing with their students the ground-breaking Womanhouse project.
In 1999, Chicago returned to teaching for the first time in twenty-five years, having accepted a succession of one-semester appointments at various institutions around the country beginning with Indiana University, Bloomington, where she received a Presidential Appointment in Art and Gender Studies. In 2000, she was an Inter-Institutional Artist in Residence at Duke University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In 2001, with her husband, photographer Donald Woodman, she undertook a project with students at Western Kentucky University. Working with students, faculty and local artists, Chicago and Woodman developed a project titled, “At Home”, examining the subject of the house from the perspective of residents of Kentucky who have a keen sense of place and home. In the fall of 2003, Chicago and Woodman team-taught again, facilitating an ambitious inter-institutional, multi-site project in Pomona and Claremont, California.
In the spring of 2006, Chicago and Woodman were the first Chancellor’s Artists in Residence at Vanderbilt University where they facilitated a project involving Vanderbilt students and Nashville artists. Recently her art education archive has been acquired by Penn State University, where it will be made available to scholars and educators. In 2009, California State University, Fresno hosted an exhibition entitled “A Studio of Their Own: The Legacy of the Fresno Feminist Experiment” in which the work of the Fresno Feminist Art program students, was showcased.
Although Chicago has been an influential teacher and prolific author, the primary focus of her career has been her studio work. In 1974, Chicago turned her attention to the subject of women’s history to create her most well-known work, The Dinner Party, which was executed between 1974 and 1979 with the participation of hundreds of volunteers. This monumental multimedia project, a symbolic history of women in Western Civilization, has been seen by more than one million viewers during its sixteen exhibitions held at venues spanning six countries.
The Dinner Party has been the subject of countless articles and art history texts and is included in innumerable publications in diverse fields. The impact of The Dinner Party was examined in the 1996 exhibition, “Sexual Politics: Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party in Feminist Art History.” Curated by Dr. Amelia Jones at the UCLA Armand Hammer Museum, this show was accompanied by an extensive catalog published by the University of California Press. In 2007, The Dinner Party was permanently housed at the Brooklyn Museum as the centerpiece of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, thereby achieving Chicago’s long-held goal. In conjunction with the permanent housing, Chicago published a final updated and definitive book, The Dinner Party: From Creation to Preservation (Merrell, 2007).
From 1980 to 1985, Chicago worked on the Birth Project, designing a series of birth and creation images for needlework that were executed under her supervision by 150 skilled needle workers around the country. The Birth Project, exhibited in more than 100 venues, employed the collaborative methods and a similar merging of concept and media that characterized The Dinner Party. Exhibition units from the Birth Project can be seen in numerous public collections around the country including The Albuquerque Museum where the core collection has been placed to be made available for exhibition and study
In addition to a life of prodigious art making, Chicago is the author of numerous books: Through the Flower: My Struggle as a Woman Artist, 1975 (subsequently published in England, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and China); The Dinner Party: A Symbol of Our Heritage, 1979; Embroidering Our Heritage: The Dinner Party Needlework, 1980 (also published in a combined edition in Germany); The Birth Project, 1985 (Anchor/Doubleday); Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light, 1993; The Dinner Party/Judy Chicago, 1996; Beyond the Flower: The Autobiography of a Feminist Artist, 1996 (Viking Penguin); Women in Art: Contested Territory (co-authored with Edward Lucie-Smith), 1999 (Watson Guptill) Fragments from the Delta of Venus, 2004 (powerHouse Books); Kitty City: A Feline Book of Hours, 2005 (Harper Design International); The Dinner Party: From Creation to Preservation, 2007 (Merrell Publishers); and Frida Kahlo, Face to Face (co-authored with Frances Borzello), 2010 (Prestel)
Chicago is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Russell Sage College in Troy, NY; an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts, honoris causa from Smith College, Northampton, MA; an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA; an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Duke University, Durham, NC; an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, OH; the 1999 UCLA Alumni Professional Achievement Award; and a Visionary Woman Award from Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, PA in 2004 as well as the Lion of Judah Award that same year
For over five decades, Chicago has remained steadfast in her commitment to the power of art as a vehicle for intellectual transformation and social change and to women’s right to engage in the highest level of art production. As a result, she has become a symbol for people everywhere, known and respected as an artist, writer, teacher, and humanist whose work and life are models for an enlarged definition of art, an expanded role for the artist, and women’s right to freedom of expression.
The new London shows opens to the public on 14th November at Ben Uri, The London Jewish Museum of Art. Surveying a range of themes from the feminist era onwards, it features more recent, intimate and autobiographical works on paper, including Autobiography of a Year (1993-94), a visual diary series of 140 drawings, along with Retrospective in a Box, a recently completed suite of prints surveying the artist’s career to date. A number of works will be on display to the public for the first time. The exhibition will encompass a broad range of media, including photographs of Chicago’s early performances; drawing; printmaking; painting and needlework, which map the influence of this artist on today’s generation, where close associations can be drawn. Contextual works by important contemporary women artists who explore areas of commonality: Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), Helen Chadwick (1956-1993) and Tracey Emin (born 1963) will form an integral part of this exhibition.
12 November 2012 sees Chicago exhibiting in London for the first time since 1985. Riflemaker will show paintings and sculpture from as early as 1963, a decade before the artist co-founded the influential feminist art programmes at California State University, Fresno, and CalArts which led to Womanhouse, the world’s first large-scale public feminist art installation. The Riflemaker exhibition also includes a rarely seen test plate and runner drawing for The Dinner Party (1974-79), a symbolic history of women in western civilisation, which has now been seen by over one million visitors. The Dinner Party is on permanent display at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, New York.
Judy Chicago, A survey of five decades of her works on paper juxtaposed with work by Louise Bourgeois, Helen Chadwick and Tracey Emin. 14 November-10 March, 2013.
Judy Chicago Exhibition
November 14, 2012 – March 10, 2013
Ben Uri, The London Jewish Museum of Art
108a Boundary Road
St. John’s Wood
London, UK NW8 0RH
011 44 020 7604 3991, www.benuri.org.uk
Judy Chicago Exhibition
November 12, 2012 – December 31, 2012
79 Beak Street
London, UK W1F 9SU
011 44 07792-706-494, www.riflemaker.org