The Dinner Party: Judy Chicago and the Power of Popular Feminism 1970–2007

Jane F Gerhard, Author
Jane F. Gerhard. Univ. of Georgia, $24.95 trade paper (360p) ISBN 978-0-8203-4457-7
Reviewed on: 03/25/2013
Release date: 06/01/2013
Hardcover - 360 pages - 978-0-8203-3675-6
Open Ebook - 358 pages - 978-0-8203-4568-0
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This thoughtful history and analysis of Judy Chicago’s 1979 “feminist blockbuster,” The Dinner Party, its provocative relations with the art world, feminism, and popular culture, and eventual transformation from “controversy to canonization,” gives second-wave feminists an opportunity to relive their turbulent roots while educating younger women—especially artists—about the struggle for rights and respect they may take for granted. Feminist historian Gerhard (Desiring Revolution) begins with vivid descriptions of the heady days of Chicago’s first feminist art program, where she and her students at Fresno State College “invented a new form of feminist education” that combined art studies with consciousness-raising, women’s history, and skill-building, paving the way for The Dinner Party. The book traces the progression from feminism to backlash to post-feminism as reflected in the collective creation of the iconic work, its exuberant San Francisco opening, its rejection by the art establishment, subsequent organizing by women’s community groups to tour the work, and its ultimate permanent exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Admitting even her own discomfort with how this monumental work moves her, Gerhard surmises that it’s necessary “to recognize that The Dinner Party communicates to audiences in a way that few pieces of art ever do.” 14 b&w photos. (June)
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