press release

Artist Judy Chicago appeared for the first time by placing an advertisement in a 1970 issue of Artforum magazine. She then became active in the first feminist educational program—Womanhouse (1971-72) in Los Angeles. Her performative and figurative forms address the Woman’s Liberation revolution. As an answer to this movement, Judy Chicago produced her first landmark piece, a permanent installation at the Brooklyn Museum: Dinner Party (1974-79).

This famous piece—the subject of several exhibitions and books—eclipsed Judy Chicago’s early work, before she became Chicago one might say: the work of Judy Gerowitz. The exhibition Los Angeles, The Cool Years, presents the first less known experiments of this uncategorizable artist, at the crossroads of the various movements which were making up the emerging forms of an era: pop art, light and space, hard edge and minimalism.

From the early 60s Judy Chicago produced a body of work profoundly rooted in California where she was living, and where an aesthetics sometimes termed cool school was born, becoming the matrix for all experimentation. She had barely graduated from UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles) when she began to develop her art in relation to the ideas of finish fetish. This expression, which is difficult to translate into French, was invented with a certain irony by New York art critics, and referred to a sort of Californian vernacular pop art with a strong taste for certain materials linked to the locality and its industries: plexiglas, lucite, vinyl or polyester.

The singularity of Judy Chicago’s works sets her apart from her contemporaries, notably through its suggestive shapes or the monumental scale linked to the perspective of her own body in space. In 1967 she created Feather Room—a huge 8 meter by 8 meter and 3,5 meter high installation made of white feathers, lightweight tarpaulins and a lighting device—worthy of the most beautiful light and space projects of her time. She also participated in 1966 in the legendary exhibition Primary Structures at the Jewish Museum in New York, which was the founding act of minimal art. From then on she became part of the history of art.

Ahead of her first retrospective in December 2018 at the Miami MOCA, the Villa Arson is bringing together for the first time a large part of Judy Chicago’s works from the 60s and early 70s: paintings, sculptures and installations including Feather Room, which had never been re-created since 1967 and which will be presented in the prestigious Galerie Carrée of the art center.

The curator of the exhibition, Géraldine Gourbe, a philosopher specialized in Californian art from the 60s on, also wished to present the works of some other West Coast artists. They all shared in Judy Chicago’s experimenting during these cool years: Marcia Hafif, John McCracken, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Pat O'Neill and DeWain Valentine.

The selection sheds light on how Chicago’s work came to be, as well as on an exceptional art scene; it makes the exhibition both a one-woman show and a group show.

Curator: Géraldine Gourbe