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5 Reasons to Check Out the New Judy Chicago Exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts
‘The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction’ finds the artist exploring a powerful subject in fascinating ways.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts hosts a new exhibit from one of the most important contemporary artists with The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, on display from Sept. 19 through Jan. 20, 2020. Judy Chicago continues a 50-year career of taking art lovers to places they have never been before with this exhibition, one that only serves to preserve the feminist trailblazer’s legacy. Read on for reasons why The End is a must-see.
The artist has been turning heads since the early 1970s, propelled by her most famous installation, The Dinner Party, a celebration of the legacies of women throughout history. Ever since, Chicago’s powerful and confrontational work has touched numerous subjects and mediums, and her legacy has never been stronger. Now 80 years old, The End sees Chicago boldly face difficult concepts as she embarks on the final chapter of her life, as she speaks out on our perceptions of death and rapid extinction among animals due to human action.
Inspired by Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series (which can be viewed at The Phillips Collection), Chicago chose to feature smaller-scale pieces that reveal a larger narrative in The End, a decision that in some ways contrasts her usually large-scale works. The exhibit features three parts: Stages of Dying (a rumination on the famous Kübler-Ross model and the most personal segment of the series), Mortality and Extinction, each occupying their own room. While the first two address human aging and both the denial and acceptance of death, the third is a stunning analysis of the destruction that humans have perpetuated upon animal species and the Earth, a topic that hits home in 2019.
The End is composed of 30 paintings on black glass, seven painted porcelain works and two bronze reliefs, a visual testament to Chicago’s versatility. Painting on black glass is particularly time-consuming and challenging, as multiple firings were necessary to complete the detailed pieces. Many of these black glass paintings also feature words from either Chicago or writers that have inspired her; certain words and phrases are bolded for maximum effect. Both bronze reliefs are spectacles: one is a self-portrait of Chicago seemingly at peace with the notion of death, the other a collection of animals presented like trophies, a searing critique of human brutality towards nature.
Always known for challenging the status quo, Chicago faces the difficult subjects of death and extinction in her typically bold manner. The End is not an exhibit that treats the topics lightly; the pieces are direct and intimate, in no way afraid to tackle ideas and concepts that can be emotionally burdensome to discuss and contemplate.
With its complexity, variety of mediums and intense subject matter, The End is geared towards an audience that embraces art’s power to challenge and confront the viewer. Chicago felt her own fragility, and that of nature, while constructing the work in the exhibit and wanted her audience to feel the same. If the exhibit strikes you, there’s plenty more to explore at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, including Live Dangerously.