Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party” (1974–79) has been the focus of combative discourse for nearly 40 years, heralded as revelatory by some, labeled “vulgar,” by conservative critics like Hilton Kramer, and challenged for its racial politics (or lack thereof) by others. Recently, Chicago challenged a recent assessment of the work by Esther Allen, who accused the artist overlooking Latin American figures like La Malinche and Frida Kahlo.
“The Dinner Party,” considered by some to be the nucleus of second-wave feminist art, found its permanent home in 2002, in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum (where it was first shown in 1980). Inside the grand matrix sits a three-sided dinner table topped with 39 place settings, most crafted to recall vulvas, and all dedicated to a mythical and historical woman from history. The table sits atop and around the triangulated Heritage Floor, which inscribes the names of 999 additional women.
Alice Walker, the author of “The Color Purple” and architect of the term “womanist,” was one of earlier critics of “The Dinner Party’s” racial dynamic, saying:
I was gratified … to learn that in the “Dinner Party” there was a place “set,” as it were, for black women. The illumination came when I stood in front of it. All the other plates are creatively imagined vaginas … The Sojourner Truth plate is the only one in the collection that shows-instead of a vagina — a face. In fact, three faces. … It occurred to me that perhaps white women feminists, no less than white women generally, cannot imagine that black women have vaginas.
Other critics have decried the work’s conflation of genitalia and gender identity. Facing critiques including these, Chicago told W Magazine in 2017 that it is “an incredible advance that we’ve begun to understand the complexity of identities.”
Recently, Judy Chicago responded directly to a new criticism of “The Dinner Party,” made by Esther Allen, a writer and translator, in her review of the Brooklyn Museum’s Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, located next to the installation. In the article, “Returning the Gaze, with a Vengeance,” Allen notes, “It’s now quite hard to keep from noticing that none of the thirty-nine Great Women granted a place at Chicago’s elaborate table is from Spain, Portugal, or any of those empires’ former colonies in the Americas.”
Chicago says that while she is not in the habit of responding directly to reviews, she published a letter with the New York Review of Books in dialogue with the criticisms, saying some of the artists featured in Radical Women studied with her, and many of the suggestions made by Allen are etched on the Heritage Floor. She argues, “At the time I was working on The Dinner Party, in the mid-1970s, there was little or no knowledge about any of these women. The prevailing point of view was that women had no history. It is important to remember that our research was done before the advent of computers, the Internet, or Google search.”
See the entirety of the exchange, including Esther Allen’s response, on the New York Review of Books.
Some have compared her album art to John Collier’s 19th-century portrait of Lady Godiva, but Beyoncé can channel her radical spirit without evoking Western art history.
With a fresh Ethereum wallet ready to scoop up freebies, I attended the world’s largest conference dedicated to that controversial wart on the Zeitgeist, the “non-fungible token.”
International audiences have free access to the media collections of MMCA Korea, Sharjah Art Foundation, and ArkDes through this subscription-based art streaming platform.
Hundreds of copies of the LA-based guerrilla poster artist Robbie Conal’s latest work, “Supreme Injustices,” were pasted up from Venice to Los Feliz.
This week, another reason to leave Facebook, who really invented democracy, and what is “Skimpflation”?
Convened by Erika Sprey, Lamin Fofana, Sky Hopinka, Emmy Catedral, and Manuela Moscoso, the public program unfolds this summer at CARA in New York City.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very Los Angeles art events this month, including Pope.L, Beatriz Cortez, Mika Rottenberg, and more.
The acclaimed composer and noise artist talks to Hyperallergic about his Pulitzer Prize-winning composition “Voiceless Mass.”
The Bay Area art book fair is back this July with free programming at three different on-site venues, new exhibitors, and fundraising editions from renowned artists.
Her works, depicting objects from Korean markets, invite viewers to marvel at what can be achieved with fabric.
Salonen’s paintings point to a location in which reality is slippery, ill-defined — a dream or place of play.
The Ancient Egyptian tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, one of the most intricate in the Saqqara necropolis, shows the pair holding hands and embracing.