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Judy Chicago returns to London

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Judy Chicago
Aging Woman/Artist/Jew from Retrospective in a Box
© Judy Chicago, 2010
Lithograph, 24″ x 24″
Photo © Donald Woodman
Ben Uri gallery

The art work of renowned American feminist artist Judy Chicago returns to London after a hiatus of 23 years.

In two separate exhibitions at the Ben Uri London Museum of Jewish Art and the Riflemaker Gallery, art lovers will be treated to Chicago’s works on paper, paintings and sculpture spanning her career from the 1960s to the present.

Of particular note is a test plate from her 1979 artwork, The Dinner Party, being exhibited at the Riflemaker.

In an interview with WVoN, Chicago explains that the exhibition at the Ben Uri is “intimate and personal in nature,” and therefore a side of her work that contrasts with her more renowned art projects that are “monumental in scale and subject matter.”

Wanting to give London audiences further exposure to her work, Chicago arranged the Riflemaker Gallery exhibition, which focuses more on her early pieces.

She says, “The London audience will have the opportunity to see work in a variety of materials in which I’ve worked: sprayed lacquer on car hoods, plastics, ceramics and glass.”

Chicago is a groundbreaking artist who has changed the way that art is created and perceived, wrenching it from the hands of male art critics and artists and carving a place for women’s artistic expression.

With works such as Womanhouse (1972), The Dinner Party (1979), the Birth Project (1985), Powerplay (1987), Holocaust Project (1993) and Resolutions: A Stitch in Time (1994), Chicago transformed the traditional notion of the artist as a solitary male creator to one that includes collaboration, sometimes with hundreds of women working to produce Chicago’s vision.

Chicago has also incorporated techniques and media that have been customarily considered women’s crafts.

China painting and needlework, for example, feature prominently in The Dinner Party, a work that encourages us to perceive these techniques as artistic creation rather than feminine pastimes.

Since 2003, Chicago has been working with glass, “exploring issues of vulnerability, mortality and the power of the human spirit.”

She says, “For a long time, glass has been under the spell of the decorative but I have been trying to do what I have done with so many other techniques—like china painting and needlework—that is, to use it to express significant subject matter.”

Chicago foregrounded women’s experiences in her art at a time when appropriate subjects for art works were male-defined.

From her menstruation bathroom in Womanhouse, through exploring women’s achievements historically in The Dinner Party, to representing birth and maternity in The Birth Project, Chicago has paved the way for female artists to develop their own terrain.

[Chicago]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.”

Viewers of the exhibit at Ben Uri, the London Jewish Museum of Art can expect to see intimate works such as Autobiography of a Year (1993-1994), a visual diary with 140 drawings;, and Retrospective in a Box, a suite of prints showcasing Chicago’s career.

Works of contemporary artists Louise Bourgeois, Helen Chadwick and Tracey Emin will contextualize Chicago’s work through explorations of common themes.

Chicago describes herself as “an unrepentant radical” and still believes that art can make a difference by responding to social injustice.

WVoN asked Chicago what she hoped viewers of her London exhibitions will take away from the experience.

She responded by saying that she hoped viewers will “find my work meaningful and relevant and that it will remind them that art is one of the few forms that we have to transcend our difference, our isolation and our essential loneliness because at its best, it expresses the human spirit.

“My goal as an artist has always been to reach across these gulfs and share my experiences with others through that which is both accessible and meaningful.”

Judy Chicago Exhibition, 14 November – 10 March 2013, Ben Uri, The London Jewish Museum of Art 108a Boundary Road, St. John’s Wood, London NW8 ORH.

Judy Chicago Exhibition, 12 November – 31 December, Riflemaker 79 Beak Street, Regent Street, London W1F9SU.

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