Judy Chicago: Through the Archives

Judy Chicago: Through the Archives opened on February 26, 2014, and ran through September 25, 2014.

Judy Chicago was born Judith Sylvia Cohen in Chicago, Illinois, on July 20, 1939, the oldest child in a family of secular Jewish liberals. Her father, Arthur, a Marxist labor organizer and post office worker, conveyed to his daughter a lifelong passion for social justice and a belief that the purpose of life was to make a difference. Her mother, May, a medical secretary and former dancer, recognized her daughter’s abilities and enrolled her at an early age in classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. Their household was alive with blues and jazz music, talk of contemporary fiction, and political awareness of the rights of workers, African Americans, and women.

While studying at the University of California, Los Angeles (BFA 1962, MA 1964), Cohen adopted her married name, Judy Gerowitz, and began to show her work locally. She soon found that, in order to be taken seriously as an artist, she was obliged to accommodate her aesthetic impulses to the prevailing modernist style. Struggling to find her place in the male-dominated art scene of Los Angeles, she discovered the literature of the women’s movement emerging in the late 1960s with "something akin to existential relief." In 1970 she announced her name change to Judy Chicago, an act identifying herself as an independent woman. Having embraced her feminist identity, Chicago set out to educate the world through her art. Her teaching and use of women’s history and the artistry of “women's crafts” revolved around her belief that “female experience could be construed to be every bit as central to the larger human condition as is the male.”