Born into a left-wing, politically-active Jewish family in Chicago in 1939, Judy Cohen grew up in 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 Chicago Institute 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 became one of the most pioneering, daring and controversial artists of her generation. Her early works have undergone critical reassessment following her significant 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.
Her most renowned installation, The Dinner Party (1974-1979), now on permanent display in the Brooklyn Museum, initially disparaged and misunderstood by critics and the establishment alike, is now recognised as a ground-breaking work, as an icon of both the feminist art movement and of 20th-century American art history, This extraordinarily ambitious piece, and the controversy it stimulated, opened the door for feminine self-expression in the arts on both sides of the Atlantic. This fully-illustrated book presents a unique perspective on the art of Judy Chicago, highlighting selected major themes from four decades, explored across a wide 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 publication and exhibition reveal a more private and intimate side to her work, hitherto largely unfamiliar to the public. The authors explore recurrent themes which emerge from her art: autobiography, art as diary, erotica, feminism, the nude, self-portraiture and issues of power, birth and motherhood.
Extensive reproductions of Chicago's work, drawn from the artist's archive and from public and private collections in the USA, and with a number not previously seen in public, are contextualised with works by Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin and Helen Chadwick, three distinguished European artists, each of whom has addressed similar issues in their own distinctive fashion during the latter part of the 20th century.