Tuesday, June 18, 2013

In the News: The Dinner Party

As Judy Chicago nears her 75th birthday and The Dinner Party turns 35, the artist and her iconic art piece continue to inspire viewers as diverse as the Queen of Norway and the Russian feminist performance art group Pussy Riot. While on national television this spring, the Queen announced The Dinner Party as her favorite piece of art. In early June, two members of Pussy Riot visited the piece in person for the first time and described their experience as "extraordinary."

In her new book, THE DINNER PARTY: JUDY CHICAGO AND THE POWER OF POPULAR FEMINISM, Jane Gerhard explores the history of this widespread and unabated influence, a phenomenon that began with the opening of the piece in 1979. Her study of The Dinner Party illustrates the powerful role feminism has in our culture and the way in which material objects can influence the transmission of ideas.

Stephanie Martin, Susan Hill and
Shelley Mark examine possible stitches
for use in a runner at the loft, 1977.
Courtesy of Through the Flower
Gerhard's book is the first to accurately portray the daily work life of Chicago's Dinner Party studio where men and women gathered to help the artist produce her monumental work and is the first account to capture the sense of excitement of the 1979 San Francisco opening. In addition to retelling the history of its unique production and the never-told story of its unconventional U.S. tour, Gerhard examines the media's coverage of the piece and its controversies, sifting through debates about its significance among feminists, art critics, and the public.

Judy Chicago herself has praised the book, saying, "I've been waiting years for a book that thoughtfully appraised what The Dinner Party has meant to art, feminism, and politics in our times—also, for an accurate description of its impact. This publication, by historian Jane Gerhard, IS that book."

On July 11, Gerhard and Chicago will take part in a moderated talk and signing at the Brooklyn Museum, the permanent home of The Dinner Party. Find out more about this event here.