Feminist artist Judy Chicago talks at Whitechapel Gallery

Judy Chicago. Pic: Press shot

American artist and feminist Judy Chicago visited the Whitechapel Gallery last night in a lecture organised to coincide with her first UK shows since 1985.

Anna Somers Cocks, moderator of the debate and founder of The Art Newspaper described Chicago’s importance in the sphere of feminist art.

Cocks said: “If you look up feminist art on Wikipedia, her name is in the first line.”

The sold out lecture featured Chicago discussing her five decades as an artist with Frances Borzello, art historian and writer, and Andrew Perchuk, deputy director of The Getty Institute.

Chicago produced her groundbreaking installation The Dinner Party in 1979. It features 39 place settings, each representing monumental female figures from history and mythology.

Cocks said: “It caused huge scandal at the time because painted on each plate is a variation on the vulva.”

However, when discussing the art that will be displayed at the Ben Uri and Riflemaker galleries from this week on, Chicago said she wants to move away from The Dinner Party.

She said: “I was very pleased at the possibility of introducing other aspects of my work, particularly to the UK audience.”

Describing her reasons for creating feminist artworks, Chicago explained  how in 1957, she enrolled on a university history course hoping to find female role models but was left disappointed:

“I’ll never forget it because [the professor] walked into the class and went to the front of the room and said, ‘Women’s contributions: they made none,’” said Chicago. “That was the prevailing view at the time.”

Chicago also voiced concerns about the male-dominated art world today, but is not defeatist. She said: “What do I hope for young women? I hope that the whole world will be yours. I hope for equal space in our museums for you. I hope for an equal place in the world for you.”

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