ART REVIEW: Judy Chicago @ BALTIC, Gateshead | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Judy Chicago Purple Atmosphere, 1969 Fireworks performance Performed at Santa Barbara Beach, Santa Barbara, CA © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo courtesy of Through the Flower Archives

 Judy Chicago’s exhibition is at BALTIC, Gateshead until 19th April

Judy Chicago is the epitome of cool, a true champion for female artists, in fact all females.  She is famous for examining the role of women through history with a feminist and humanist approach.  Actually hailing from Chicago, she came from a family that encouraged equality, which instilled a passion for exploring this.  There’s just no mistaking that Judy has done exactly that for over fifty years, including the founding of the first feminist art programme in 1971 and Times Magazine naming her 100 Most Influential People in 2018.   

Gateshead’s very own BALTIC has secured a monumental exhibition by presenting the first major UK survey of Judy Chicago in her 80th birthday year, a superb achievement for the North East’s ever-growing art scene.  As you enter the gallery, the pure energy of it hits you.  It is a true celebration of this living legend, with a pleasing range of art to admire and explore from her body of work. 

There are prints on aluminium, including Purple Atmosphere, that are a feast for the eyes and pop with colour.  These record the live pyrotechnic pieces she created from the late 60s; she wanted to feminise the atmosphere in a male-dominated world.   The Accident is 21 drawings and photographs documenting a particular event in her life.  It is a difficult thing to study, with candid shots of her injuries, but such a brave piece of work that shows her strength.  This expression is also apparent in Autobiography of a Year with 140 drawings chronicling her ups and downs.

The Birth Project broke barriers in the 80s for showing birth in western art.  Representing the project here is Childbirth in America: Crowning Quilt.  The colours and material are rich; it depicts the true beauty of childbirth in a gently graphic nature.  At the back of the room is the screening of a film, narrated by Judy, about The Dinner Party.  This is another piece of work that is considered a milestone in 20th Century art.   Holding 39 place settings that commemorate important women in history, the detail is astounding.  There are so many historical female symbols encompassed.

With a great deal more to see, you could spend hours here. As many of the titles took years to complete, you have the utmost respect for what she has accomplished in her life.  Judy Chicago portrays strong and powerful messages, but always with her feminine gaze. The whole thing shimmers and fills you with wonder.  You may even leave with a tear in your eye.

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