“[It’s] a monumental installation that is a symbolic history of women in western civilization,” famed author, feminist and artist Judy Chicago told SFR about her emblematic The Dinner Party. “Or, as I sometimes describe it—a reinterpretation of ‘The Last Supper’ from the point of view of those who’ve done the cooking throughout history.”
Thirty years into her stint in New Mexico and coinciding with her 75th birthday, another landmark is placed in Chicago’s storied carrier: Local Color, a comprehensive spotlight on Chicago’s body of work since moving to the state, which unveils on Friday.
“In this front section, we have a few different series,” Merry Scully, head of curatorial affairs for the New Mexico Museum of Art, says as she leads the way into the New Wing, where the exhibition is being installed. The curator passes ”In the Shadow of the Hand Gun,” a monumental piece a part of the “PowerPlay” series, which in Scully’s words, relates to “masculinity in particular and these assumed notions of what it means to be male—often the association of masculinity with power or aggression.”
The hustle and bustle of installation is ever-present as a handful of staffers race against time to hang the show. The buzz of electric drills and hydraulic lifts fills the air, painter’s tape is freshly stripped and levels are on overtime.
“The thing that was easy about working with Judy is that she tends to work in series that have very discreet beginnings and ends,” Scully says of the monumental task of condensing three decades worth of work in one cohesive environment. “Often the projects are five to seven-years long, but they are very defined.”
Along with “PowerPlay,” other series like the WIPP-centric “Nuclear Waste[d]”—a collaboration with Chicago’s husband, photographer Donald Woodman, and studies on the Holocaust.
Of note is the wide breath of mediums displayed in the exhibits—which range from wood and cast bronze to oil on linen and cast paper.
Always at the forefront, Chicago’s innate message of equality, Scully says, rings today as loud as ever.
“I think that the work that she did with The Dinner Party was very much about female experience and validation of history,” she says. “As we go though this new work, we see that she’s addressing issues in a more universal way.”
Along with jaw-droppers, Scully says obscure pieces were thrown into the mix to further give breadth to the artist’s extensive artistic experience.
“This is kind of the domestic space Judy,” the curator says, leading the way to the final room in the exhibit, which houses everything from personal Seder plates to sculptures of the artist’s cats.
“Part of it is raising crafts like needlework and China painting—taking those out of the home with The Dinner Party and into the museum,” Scully explains and pauses. “This part is kind of a personal section, things you might never think about when thinking of Judy.”
Judy Chicago in NM 1984–2014
5:30–7:30 pm Friday, June 6
New Mexico Museum of Art
107 W Palace Ave.,