Jewish Museum of Florida. Judy Chicago

Sept 8th, 2009 through Feb 7th, 2010.

Jewish Identity, an exhibition by painter Judy Chicago, is on view at the Jewish Museum of Florida. The exhibition is a retrospective of 50 works from the artist’s extensive career, exploring the impact that her Eastern European Jewish roots and Jewish cultural and politically activist upbringing have had in her life.

Born Judith Sylvia Cohen to socialist-leaning parents who descended from a long line of rabbis, she began drawing when she was three years. She legally changed her name in 1970 to Judy Chicago, as to break away from imposed patriarchal traditions, demonstrating this way her commitment to freedom and independence. Although closely tided to Chicago’s feminist world, Judy Chicago has been a convention-shattering feminist artist since the 1960s.

Her artistic message and social activism have inspired and enlightened many who have come in contact with her work. Even with her family background and her art statements as a woman, Chicago’s commitment to her Jewish heritage was tenuous until she visited the Nazi death camps. Researching the Holocaust, she discovered that stories of women who perished were largely excluded from the vast literature. The result, after eight years of traveling and reading, was The Holocaust Project in 1993 that she executed in collaboration with her husband, Donald Woodman, and some of these pieces are part of the exhibit.

Judy Chicago is well known for her work called The Dinner Party (1974-79). The installation is made of a massive ceremonial banquet, arranged on a triangular table with a total of thirty-nine place settings, each commemorating an important woman from history.

Each settings shows embroidered motifs of vulvar and butterfly forms, referencing the particular female honored. The names of another 999 women are inscribed in gold on the white tile floor below the triangular table. The Dinner Party, which has become an icon of the women’s movement, is now permanently installed in the Brooklyn Museum.
The artworks in the show are on loan from the LewAllen Contemporary Gallery in Santa Fe, NM and were selected by Laura Kruger, curator of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum in New York, and Gail Levin, acclaimed scholar and author of the 2007 artist’s biography.

Without a doubt, Judy Chicago has challenged conventional thinking about art and about the role of women. It has indeed been her mission to create art that helps “to make the world whole.”

Jewish Museum of Florida
301 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139

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