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“If men had babies, there would be thousands of images of the crowning.” — Judy Chicago
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco celebrate pioneering feminist artist Judy Chicago with the first retrospective of her work. Spanning from her early engagement with the Californian Light and Space Movement in the 1960s to her most current body of work—a searing investigation of mortality and environmental devastation—the exhibition will include about 150 paintings, drawings, ceramic sculptures, prints, and performance-based works that chart the boundary-pushing path of the artist. Judy Chicago: A Retrospective is presented in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote across the United States.
Judy Chicago: A Retrospective will be on view from May 9 through September 5, 2020, at the de Young museum in San Francisco. The exhibition is organized by Claudia Schmuckli, Curator in Charge of Contemporary Art and Programming at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
“I am thrilled that, forty years after the premiere of The Dinner Party in San Francisco, the de Young museum is hosting my first retrospective,” says Judy Chicago. “It will be a real homecoming, as it is in California that I launched my long career.”
One of the founding forces behind the 1970s feminist art movement, Chicago became widely known for The Dinner Party, a massive installation turning women’s traditional household-bound role on its head by setting a feast for 39 remarkable women—from Hildegarde of Bingen to Emily Dickinson—to shine a spotlight on women’s contributions to history. Under creation for more than five years, its realization relied on the contributions of dozens of volunteers. Concluded in 1979, it was presented in San Francisco to popular success and proceeded to be shown internationally to an audience of over one million viewers through an unprecedented grass roots effort. Art critics, however, responded differently, annihilating it for its celebration of vaginal imagery and embrace of “feminine” craft. For decades Chicago operated on the margins of the art world, her work shunned by most critics and institutions and her evolution as an artist eclipsed by the notoriety of The Dinner Party.Though that work has since received recognition as one of the iconic artworks of its time, Judy Chicago: A Retrospective is the first exhibition to offer a comprehensive overview of Chicago’s career.
“Judy Chicago: A Retrospective brings to the fore the continued radicality of Chicago’s practice, both in her choice of subject matter and embrace of media traditionally excluded from the art historical canon,” says Claudia Schmuckli, Curator in Charge of Contemporary Art and Programming at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “To this day, her art is activist in its foundations. It is driven by the need and desire for social justice and an insistence on aesthetic strategies that don’t require knowledge of art history or critical theory to be legible while being deeply inscribed in both.”
Judy Chicago: A Retrospective will trace the artist’s practice back to its roots, revealing her unique working process – sometimes alone, other times collaborating with her husband, colleagues, or a wider circle of volunteers, and the origins of the formal and conceptual strategies she has applied throughout her oeuvre. Bringing together a representative selection drawn from every major series of her work, it will also feature sketchbooks, journals, and preparatory drawings that document her extensive process of research and development.
Judy Chicago: A Retrospective will include a number of works that Chicago produced as a young artist in Los Angeles. Developed in response to the reigning minimalist aesthetic, painting series such as Pasadena Lifesaversand Fresno Fans, and sculptures such as Rainbow Pickettand Sunset Squares, demonstrate her early interest in what she has termed “fringe techniques and subjects.” Having enrolled in auto-body school to learn techniques that are not taught at art school, Chicago produced a number of spray-painted car hoods, hung on the wall like paintings. The series’ bold, female-centric imagery is represented in the exhibition by works, such as Birth Hood, and Bigamy Hood.
Pyrotechnic training led to her developing Atmospheres(1968–1974), a series of collaborative smoke and firework performances responding to the male-dominated, sculpture-centric Land Art movement, as well as reflecting on and contextualizing her own painting practice. With institutional support as a ladder, Chicago has recently revisited this series and will conceive of a performance in front of the de Young in conjunction with the exhibition.
After decades of trying to fit into the structure of a patriarchal society, Chicago decided to change her name and history. In October 1970, she announced her chosen identity with a full-page ad in Artforum, divesting herself of “all names imposed upon her through male social dominance”. She proceeded to found the first feminist arts education program in the United States, and then co-found the Feminist Studio Workshop, and the Woman’s Building, celebrating and nourishing the creative growth and recognition of female artists from around the world. Judy Chicago: A Retrospectivewill include prints, films, and other archival materials celebrating Chicago’s pioneering educational role.Continue reading