Judy Chicago exhibition

Ben Uri past exhibition

Judy Chicago and Louise Bourgeois, Helen Chadwick, Tracey Emin: a Transatlantic dialogue

14th November 2012 – 10th March 2013

Video content for this exhibition

A tour of the exhibition with Judy Chicago, contemporary art critic Louisa Buck and the exhibition curator Rachel Dickson.


Born into a left-wing, politically-active Jewish family in Chicago in 1939, Judy Cohen grew up in a household in which human rights and values were issues of principle, and the empowerment of the individual was an imperative rather than an aspiration. This environment, and the untimely death of her father, helped to shape the artist known today as Judy Chicago. A prodigious talent, she was enrolled in art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago at the age of five. In 1957 she moved to Los Angeles to study art at the University of California, and in 1970 she legally changed her name to Judy Chicago to liberate herself from the perceived male-dominance in the art world. The combination of talent, sheer will, vision, courage and ambition led her to become one of the most pioneering, daring and controversial artists of her generation.

Her early works have undergone critical reassessment following her significant recent positioning within the Getty Research Institute’s ‘Pacific Standard Time’ series of exhibitions, held between October 2011 and February 2012, which sought to reconsider the contribution of West Coast artists to the American art scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Furthermore, The Dinner Party (1979), on permanent display in the Brooklyn Museum since 2007, initially disparaged and misunderstood by critics and the establishment alike, is now recognised as a groundbreaking work, as an icon of both the feminist art movement and of twentieth century American art history. This extraordinarily ambitious collaborative piece, and the controversy it stimulated, opened the door for feminine self-expression in the arts on both sides of the Atlantic.

The exhibition

Ben Uri’s survey presents a unique perspective on the art of Judy Chicago, highlighting selected major themes from more than four decades, explored primarily through works on paper, but also addressing a range of media, including painting, printmaking, drawing, photography, film, performance and textile work. In contrast to the monumental series and large-scale works for which Chicago is best known, the exhibition reveals a more private and intimate side to her work, hitherto largely unfamiliar to the public. The exhibition explores recurrent themes which emerge from her art: autobiography, art as diary, erotica, feminism, the nude, self-portraiture, issues of masculine power, birth and motherhood – and the cat.

There will be over 170 individual examples of Judy’s work on display, ranging from early feminist imagery, documentation of early performances, pieces from the Birth Project, erotica, and a number of autobiographical works. These include the highly personal Autobiography of a Year – which comprises 140 small, intensely revealing drawings made during the course of the year 1993-94, the whole installation punctuated by splashes of vibrant colour corresponding to the artist’s changing moods. Also on display is the Excision sketchbook which addresses the artist’s hysterectomy and which has not been seen in public before.

The exhibition will also provide the first exciting opportunity to see together the seven prints which comprise the series Retrospective in a Box, only recently proofed at Landfall Press in Santa Fe. These seven images each represent key projects/stages in Chicago’s oeuvre, including her early abstract work, her first feminist images, the Birth Project, the Holocaust Project, Power Play and finally, self-image.