When Judy Chicago's multimedia exhibit "The Dinner Party" opened in the 1970s, it was hailed "an icon of feminist art" (ARTnews) and was seen by nearly one million people. Now, in a book celebrating the re-opening of the exhibit in Los Angeles later this year, Chicago updates the themes, interpretation, and history of her landmark exhibit.
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One of the earliest organizers of the 1970s women's movement in art, Chicago has remained a high-profile, controversial multimedia feminist artist. These two works can be read as sequels/updates to Chicago's three previous books: her outspoken Through the Flower (LJ 3/15/75), The Dinner Party (LJ 6/1/79), and Embroidering Our Heritage (LJ 12/80). Chicago established her international reputation early on with the first book, an indiscreet, youthful autobiography that decried, sometimes in street language, her personal pain as a woman artist within a patriarchal society. In her updated Beyond the Flowers, as in the Dinner Party, expanded for a reopening debut in Los Angeles, she laments the vicissitudes of her personal life and career and the vast amount of money still needed to find a permanent home for her famous/infamous collaborative installation. "The Dinner Party" now appears in standard Western art survey texts. It records 1,038 mythical and historical women of Western civilization, especially honoring 39 of these with place settings on a triangular banquet table 48' per side. Controversy surrounded the imagery of the 39 plates, multicolor, explicit depictions of vaginas as harshly aggressive genitalia that are often criticized as inappropriate stand-ins for famous women. In The Dinner Party, a judiciously edited commemoration of a recent showing of the work, Chicago responds, "What is wrong with that?" Both books are essential for social, political, and feminist art collections.?Mary Hamel-Schwulst, Towson State Univ., Md.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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