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Judy Chicago, Immolation, 1972 at “Judy Chicago: Herstory” New Museum

Judy Chicago Champions Herstory at the New Museum

Erica Silverman

10 November 2023

A Career Survey of Judy Chicago and a Dynamic Group Show at the New Museum

Last month in New York, the New Museum unveiled “Judy Chicago: Herstory,” a sweeping career survey of the preeminent artist and feminist activist, sponsored by Dior and on view through January 14, 2024. Curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Edlis Neeson Artistic Director; Gary Carrion-Murayari, Kraus Family Senior Curator; Margot Norton, Chief Curator at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; and Madeline Weisburg, Assistant Curator; alongside Ian Wallace, Curatorial Assistant, the powerful show was granted major support by The Artemis Council of the New Museum as well by Jordan Schnitzer with The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation

Encompassing a momentous 60 years of the artist’s inspired practice, the presentation includes a group exhibition, titled “The City of Ladies,” which places Chicago’s luminous works in conversation with over 80 female and gender-nonconforming visionaries, including Frida Kahlo, Hilma af Klint, Georgia O’Keeffe, Simone de Beauvoir, and Virginia Woolf

Judy Chicago Portrait 2023 by Donald Woodman

Portrait of Judy Chicago; photo by Donald Woodman/Artists Rights Society, courtesy of the artist and the New Museum.

60 Years of the Artist and Activist’s Exploration and Creation are on Stunning Display 

Beginning with the artist’s vivid explorations of Minimalism in the early 1960s, a diverse array of paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photography are juxtaposed with mesmeric works of stained glass, textiles, printmaking, and needlework for a singular look into the heart and mind of a spirited historian and valiant pioneer. 

Projects, including the critical contemporary sculpture Rainbow Pickett (1965), alongside archival prints of Atmospheres, Chicago’s profound smoke and firework performances inaugurated in 1969, give way to riveting feminist artworks of the 1970s, from the haunting mixed media piece Bridal Staircase (1972), to the sensual Virginia Woolf from Plate Line Drawings (1978). Extensive artistic and cultural investigations spanning the 1980s and 1990s are on display—including Birth Project (1980-85), which utilizes painting, embroidery, and needlework to meditate on the complex human experience. 

Judy Chicago, Rainbow Pickett, 1965:2021 for “Judy Chicago: Herstory” New Museum

Judy Chicago, “Rainbow Pickett,” 1965/2021, 118 3/4 x 132 x 118 3/4 in., matthews polyurethane paint on stainless steel; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society, New York, courtesy of the artist, the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation, and the New Museum.

The luminary offers her historic treasures alongside recent explorations such as The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction (2012–18), a multi-faceted series that examines the effects of a life lost on both humanity and planet Earth, as well as The Female Divine (2022), a vibrant collaboration between Chicago and Mumbai’s Chanakya School of Craft

“City of Ladies” Connects Judy Chicago to a Legacy of Pioneering Female Artists  

“The City of Ladies” exhibition, an homage to 15th-century feminist author and historiographer Christine de Pisan’s influential “Le Livre de la Cité des Dames,” reveals the artist’s soulful connection to a myriad of female and genderqueer creatives, as well as her vigorous efforts to preserve their trailblazing legacies. Archival materials from Eileen Agar, Hildegard von Bingen, Imogen Cunningham, Emily Dickinson, and Suzanne Duchamp, are placed in compelling dialogue with works by Martha Graham, Barbara Hepworth, Mina Loy, Louise Nevelson, and Sojourner Truth

The “introspective” continues with Chicago’s synergetic “call and response projects,” including International Honor Quilt (1980–87), a global collaboration and celebration of women, and What If Women Ruled the World? (2022), a transcendent and inclusive installation created with the founding member Pussy Riot, Nadya Tolokonnikova; the immersive digital activation within the museum was developed by Chicago in conversation with the 2020 Dior couture presentation and the maison’s Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri

Installation view of “Judy Chicago: Herstory

Installation view of “Judy Chicago: Herstory,” photo by Dario Lasagni, courtesy of the New Museum.

Public Programs Explore Judy Chicago’s Impact on Art, Feminism, and Ecology

Uplifting the exhibition’s embracement of women and their dynamic contributions to art, culture, and society, are a series of public programs in the New Museum Theater. On October 12, “Judy Chicago in Conversation with Massimiliano Gioni” rejoiced in the artist’s prodigious career and impact on the feminist art landscape, and on November 9, “Birth: A Convening on Art and Human Reproduction” offered conversations with speakers including artist and technologist Ani Liu, scholar Dána-Ain Davis, and artist Carmen Winant.

 “Atmospheres: Art, Feminism, and Ecology” takes place on December 14, inviting speakers including curator and writer Candice Hopkins and artist Torkwase Dyson to explore Chicago’s immense contributions to 1970s ecological feminism on today’s leading contemporary artists. 

Judy Chicago, Virginia Woolf, from The Reincarnation Triptych, 1973. at “Judy Chicago: Herstory” New Museum

Judy Chicago, “Virginia Woolf,” from “The Reincarnation Triptych,” 1973, 60 x 60 in., sprayed acrylic on canvas; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society, New York, courtesy of the artist, the Kirsten Grimstad and Diana Gould Collection, and the New Museum.

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