With predictions of environmental apocalypse now pointing to a visible horizon, culture has been bravely absorbing the anxiety and reshaping it into thoughtful commentary – if only to help us make some sense of this particularly chilling new reality.
Surely no surprise then, Judy Chicago, one of the most ideologically formidable artists of the last half century, has poignantly leaped into the fray. Having previously and powerfully taken on everything from the patriarchy to menstruation to the Holocaust, her latest series, The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction – currently on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in D.C. – attains the same measure of gravitas for its deft command of the matter of the worrying eco-zeitgeist.
Most fascinatingly, the drawings for that series have been gathered together for an insightful new exhibition, Judy Chicago: Picturing Extinction; Studies for The End, at the Salon94 Freemans gallery on New York’s Lower East Side. The original series The End comprised forty works of painted porcelain and glass, as well as two large bronze reliefs – and the drawings offer a fascinating glimpse into the process of this exalted artist, as she addresses the shockingly quickening pace at which earthly species’ are facing or reaching extinction. It makes for another level of incisive engagement with this vivid, visceral lamentation on human fecklessness and disregard.
The drawings are also intriguing for Chicago’s handwriting, which she has often used as a tool of creative communication. And her artistic language is as blunt and unflinching as the situation calls for, with the works given starkly chilling titles like Poached, Silenced, Smothered, Debarked, Targeted, Harvested, Smuggled and, of course, Doomed.
A major monograph accompanies the exhibition, Judy Chicago: New Views, published by Scala, in partnership with NMWA, and with support from Salon94.