Sexual Politics: Judy Chicago's Dinner Party in Feminist Art History

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Within the politically charged debates of the feminist art movement, Judy Chicago's Dinner Party has been a focal point of controversy. A monumental table in the form of an equilateral triangle, The Dinner Party honors 1,038 women in Western history, 39 if whom are represented at the table itself by elaborate needlework runners and ceramic plates with centralized, often vulvar, motifs. When the piece was first shown, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1979, it drew the largest audience in that museum's ...
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Overview

Within the politically charged debates of the feminist art movement, Judy Chicago's Dinner Party has been a focal point of controversy. A monumental table in the form of an equilateral triangle, The Dinner Party honors 1,038 women in Western history, 39 if whom are represented at the table itself by elaborate needlework runners and ceramic plates with centralized, often vulvar, motifs. When the piece was first shown, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1979, it drew the largest audience in that museum's history. Although it was praised by many feminists, it also engendered vehemently negative responses, from mainstream art critics and feminist commentators alike. The essays in this volume, which is published in conjunction with an exhibition organized by UCLA at the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center, provide a major reevaluation of The Dinner Party and the debates that it has prompted, placing it within the broader context of art history and theory. Presenting works dating from the early 1960s to the present by other feminist artists, the book explores important issues raised in feminist art history and practice over the last thirty-five years. The works included make clear that The Dinner Party was produced within, and takes its meanings from, a historical matrix in which explorations of female sexuality, ideals of beauty, domesticity, violence against women, the questioning of male authority, the diversity of female experience, and other concerns have served as means of addressing issues of identity, oppression, and personal and social power. Through its examination of the reception of The Dinner Party, both in the United States and abroad, Sexual Politics also traces the development of feminist art theory.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Completing a trilogy begun with Chicago's recent Beyond the Flower and The Dinner Party (both LJ 6/96), this volume is the actual catalog of the reappearance of Chicago's peripatetic icon of feminist art. But "The Dinner Party" is only one of about 100 other feminist artworks, created by 55 women artists, that were put on display at the Armand Hammar Museum to bring 1970s feminist art into perspective and even to document "the visibility of the vagina in women's art of the 1990s." Only a few portions of this engrossing study seem a bit more prurient than necessary. Chicago herself is not a contributor, but there is much discussion of her reputation, career, and various works. Among the seven mostly academic essays, much is added by A. Kubitza's "Rereading the Readings of `The Dinner Party' in Europe" and L. Cottingham's "Eating from `The Dinner Party' Plates and Other Myths, Metaphors, and Moments of Lesbian Enunciation in Feminism and Its Art Movement." Well recommended for serious collections on feminism.Mary Hamel-Schwulst, Towson State Univ., Md.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520205659
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/1996
  • Pages: 224

Table of Contents

Foreword 10
Acknowledgments 11
Lenders to the Exhibition 12
Plates 13
Sexual Politics: Feminist Strategies, Feminist Conflicts, Feminist Histories 20
From Finish Fetish to Feminism: Judy Chicago's Dinner Party in California Art History 46
The "Sexual Politics" of The Dinner Party: A Critical Context 82
Identifying with Judy Chicago 126
Rereading the Readings of The Dinner Party in Europe 148
Beneath the Green Veil: The Body in/of New Feminist Art 184
Eating from the Dinner Party Plates and Other Myths, Metaphors, and Moments of Lesbian Enunciation in Feminism and Its Art Movement 208
A Feminist Chronology, 1945-95 236
Checklist of the Exhibition 255
Index 262
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