The other voice - Kathryn Hart

With This Judy Chicago Survey in the UK, The Human Condition Gets a Spotlight, from 'The Birth Project' to 'The End'

  • GATESHEAD, United Kingdom
  • /
  • December 12, 2019

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Judy Chicago, Purple Poem for Miami, 2019. Fireworks performance Commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

With a major retrospective ahead at the de Young Museum in San Francisco (May 9 through September 5, 2020), pioneering artist Judy Chicago is getting her due. A new show in the UK currently surveys Chicago's themes of birth and death over a 50-year career.

In her 80th birthday year, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead is presenting the first major UK survey of works by pioneering feminist artist, author and educator Judy Chicago.

This exhibition spans Chicago’s fifty-year career, from her early smoke performance ‘actions’ in the desert in the 1970s, to her most recent series, The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction (2013–18), which has not been previously shown outside of the US.

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Judy Chicago explores Chicago’s work from the perspective of the human condition, connecting birth and death with the emotional journeys experienced by the artist while highlighting Chicago’s ongoing concern with the devastating effects of climate change on the natural world.

The Birth Project (1980–85) is presented in dialogue with The End, linking the two extremes of being – birth and death. Alongside this, the detailed series of drawings and watercolours constituting Autobiography of a Year (1993–94) and My Accident (1986) offer a glimpse into the emotions the artist experienced over the course of one year and the impact of an accident in her life.

"Let it All Hang Out" (1973) by Judy Chicago. Credit: Judy Chicago/ARS/ Donald Woodman/New Orleans Museum of Art

The exhibition will include a selection of photographs from Chicago’s iconic early Atmospheres series (1969–1974), which proposes a feminist approach to land art, intended to transform and soften the landscape – inserting a feminine impulse into the environment. A triptych of photographs from Chicago’s most recent work, A Purple Poem for Miami (2019) will be seen for the first time in a commission for BALTIC’s entrance area light box.

Over the past five decades, Chicago has approached art as a means to effect intellectual and social change for women. Her work has employed media from traditional crafts such as needlework and china painting to deploying pyrotechnics and explosives in her actions, and creating paintings and prints that document personal and environmental narratives over long periods of time. At the heart of her most recent work is a consuming awareness of the environment and the impact of climate change on the natural world.

"Earth Birth" (1983) from the "Birth Project," by Judy Chicago. Credit: Donald Woodman/Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society

This survey at BALTIC – the first exhibition curated by Irene Artistizábal since joining the gallery as Head of Curatorial and Public Practice – will mark the artist’s first UK institutional survey, and a timely presentation of some of the most significant works in Chicago’s career.

Irene Aristizábal said: “We’re so pleased to present the UK’s first institutional survey of Judy Chicago – the exhibition coincides with a renewed interest in Chicago’s work following her recent major exhibitions at the ICA Miami; CAPC, Bordeaux and the Brooklyn Museum. Chicago’s work hasn’t had the deserved visibility in the UK and this exhibition aims to redress this whilst engaging with subjects close to Chicago’s heart and to the public consciousness such as the extinction emergency and what feminism means today.”


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