Sunday, April 08, 2007

Brooklyn Museum, Judy Chicago's Dinner Party

Yesterday I went to the Brooklyn Museum to see the new Sackler Gallery of feminist art. But I got distracted when I noticed they had an Asher Durand exhibit. This pictures is actually Knessett and is more "golden glowy" than Durand's wonderful woods with great trees in the foreground, but it's contemporary and I looked at a few Hudson River school paintings too. I try to be unsentimental and "sesrious" about my tastes in art but that whole bunch of painters always make me feel good. The Hudson IS such a magnificent river. New York state has much gorgeous scenery. And I am always pulled into the trees when I'm in parks with trails. The grove of magnificent elms in Central Park gives me a hint of what those forests must have been like. So all that softened me up for the more cerebral experience of Judy Chicago's DINNER PARTY.

This is probably the most ambitious, best known and maybe most important work of art from the feminist movement of the '70s. I had never seen it. It was shown widely and then went into storage for many years. Now it is permanently installed in the new gallery in the Brooklyn Museums. HURRAY!! This is an elegantly conceived work; a banquet table with place settings for three dozen women starting with mythological godesses and moving into the present era. Each place setting has a large ceramic plate and an elegantly designed table cloth. Plus plain goblet and know and fork.
The plates originally caused a stir because their designs are often sexually suggestive. Not a lot was said about the cloths but I found them sometimes more interesting and beautiful than the plates. I once was assigned a roommate at a conference who was one of the embroiderers who worked on the cloths. Altogether about 120 different women constructed this piece. It attempts to be inclusive with many women's names in gold on the white ceramic floor tiles. The installation has a lead-in and an exit exhibit, a time line presentation names many, many more women. My only negative feeling is that, like almost all cannonical modern art, it is Euro-centric. While Astarte and Biblical women are not strictly speaking European, the Hindu godesses Kali is the only Asian "woman". We simply know about few others because of our Euro-centric educations.

The Brooklyn Museum has given New York City an imporant piece of art. Much else is wonderful in that museum, it is always a great satisfaction to visit it. Not as crowded as the Met, and without the huge collections, it mounts very good shows, like the Durand -- in fact, some of the favorite shows I've seen in the past 15 or so years have been there. I had thought I might go into the botanic garden which is half a block away but the day was cold and gray and from the museum windows I could see no blooming trees.

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