The Arty Semite

Judy Chicago Returns to London

By Anne Joseph

The work of pioneering American feminist artist Judy Chicago is not for the prudish. Her current exhibition at Ben Uri The London Jewish Museum of Art displays graphic imagery of the male and female form alongside pieces addressing the notion of female subjugation and masculine power. Yet nestled next to artworks that can challenge and shock are collaborative needlework gems of absolute beauty.

Judy Chicago, ‘The Crowning,’ 2009. Courtesy Donald Woodman/ Ben Uri Gallery.

Approximately 170 examples of Chicago’s works are on display in her first U.K. exhibit since 1984. Selected from both her personal archive and from public collections in the U.S., they range from her early feminist images to unseen recent pieces, such as a seven print series, “Retrospective in a Box.” Exploring themes including autobiography, erotica, feminism, pregnancy and birth, the exhibition is contexualized with pieces from artists Louise Bourgeois, Helen Chadwick and Tracey Emin, whose work has tackled similar issues. Two smaller shows are also being held at galleries in Soho and Liverpool.

Chicago’s work has been at the forefront of the women’s art agenda since the 1960s, though she is most renowned for her 1979 installation, “The Dinner Party.” An icon of 1970s feminist art, the work features a huge triangular table and place settings for 39 significant women from history. Along with other works in The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, where it is permanently housed, the installation helps account for almost a third of visitors at the museum. “People come from all over the world‘to see [it] which attests to its ongoing relevance to both women and men,” Chicago told the Forward by email.

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Forward Fives: 2010 in Exhibitions

By Forward Staff

In this, the second annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in film, music, theater, exhibitions and books. Here we present five of the most important Jewish exhibitions of 2010. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

Shifting the Gaze: Painting and Feminism

Like any good retrospective, the Jewish Museum’s display of 32 pieces of art from the past 50 years makes an argument for their continued relevance. Instead of focusing on a single artist, however, “Shifting the Gaze” shows how the entire question of Jewish gender identity and its artistic expression is still very much with us. Featuring works by artists such as Judy Chicago, Joan Semmel and Deborah Kass, the exhibit illustrates how feminist ideas have challenged conventions in the art world and have resulted in thought-provoking new works.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘Shifting the Gaze’ here.

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This Week in Forward Arts and Culture

By Ezra Glinter

Courtesy Robert Sherman
  • Michael Goldfarb celebrates the Man Booker Prize win by English Jewish novelist Howard Jacobson.

  • The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences plans on giving an honorary Oscar to Jean-Luc Godard. But will they be honoring an anti-Semite? Benjamin Ivry investigates.

  • Fifty years after his initial rise to fame, novelty songwriter Allan Sherman is as popular as ever. Mark Cohen explains why.

  • Ilan Stavans goes to see “Nora’s Will,” a Mexican film that won seven Ariel awards.

  • Gordon Haber critiques a documentary about March of the Living.

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