Museum Review Must-See Chicago In Brooklyn
By Jan Aaron
“The Dinner Party” at the Brooklyn Museum consists of a three-sided banquet table with 39 place settings; each dedicated to a famous woman, and is widely hailed as an epic work of feminist art. “Chicago in LA: Judy Chicago’s Early Work 1963-74,” at the museum through September 28, is an exhibition of pre-Dinner Party works, and explains how she went from eager grad student to feminist emissary. In this context, it becomes more than art and present a focused picture of art in a time defined by enormous social and cultural upheaval.
The artist, born Judith Cohen in Chicago in 1939, used last name Gerowitz, in the 1960’s, her first husband’s surname. When he died in a car accident in 1963, she changed her name to Chicago in 1970 in an Art forum magazine ad. In the following years, she earned her master’s degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, and became famous enough to be invited to exhibit in “Primary Colors,” an avant-garde 1966 exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York. The work she chose, “Rainbow Pickets,” a series of six brightly colored beams is seen in a 2004 recreation in the Brooklyn show. The 60’s were years she explored Tantric, American Indian, and Art Deco styles that appeal even now, but brought scorn from her early teachers.
Ms. Chicago, who was at the press preview, explained that in graduate school, she met with great resistance whenever she introduced female sexuality in her work. “Yet male artists got away with it,” she said.
Competitive and determined, she decided to “beat the guys at their own game.” She adopted their tough guy attitudes. She dropped works that refereed to her gender and became a serious artist working with power tools, and fiberglass castings, and auto-painting techniques. She apprenticed at a fireworks company to produce a series of happenings. And there’s more: She moved San Francisco’s experimental art scene, she taught at Fresno College in 1970, creating a course of study for women called “The Feminist Art Program.” The next year, she and the painter Miriam Schapiro moved the program to the California Institute of the Arts. There with their students, they created Womanhouse, an institution for collaborations, installations and performances in an old house. Space does not permit covering all of this amazing artists accomplishment. For the entire story, go to the thoroughly engrossing exhibit in Brooklyn. My personal favorites are “Through The Flower.” I’m sure you’ll discover your own. (718-638-5000 or brooklynmusuem.org).#