Judy Chicago in Glass marks the iconic artist’s second solo exhibition at Nina Johnson. Opening November 30th in the upstairs gallery, this exhibition includes works from Chicago’s glass series, alongside drawings, and the debut of Mortality in Glass, Chicago’s largest glass work to date. On the gallery sculpture pad, Chicago will present Zig Zag, a newly produced powder coated steel rendition of the original minimalist sculpture created in 1965. What links this work to the later pieces is color, surface, and visual rigor.
Predominantly featured in the gallery are Chicago’s sculptures from two series: Head’s Up and Hands from the early 2000’s when she began working in glass with the goal of transforming it from its decorative origins, something she has done with numerous other techniques. Chicago has worked in glass for over a decade combining glass with other techniques. The works in this exhibition focus on her cast glass and kiln painted images of hands in emotive gestures ranging from the raised fist of protest or triumph to the vulnerability of an outstretched palm, along with selected portrait busts, each conveying the mental state of the sitter: sometimes somber, sometimes exposed. The forms echo the characteristics of the glass used to create them, which can be both incredibly strong or fragile. This association between the physical material of the works and the physicality of their subjects, the human form, is even more directly depicted in a series of cast glass Toby Mugs in which the human form literally becomes a vessel.
One of the newest works in the exhibition is Mortality in Glass, cast from the original mold for the bronze relief included in Chicago’s most recent major body of work, The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, featured prominently in her first ever career retrospective currently at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. This deeply personal and moving piece depicts the artist resting peacefully on her own death bed. While the bronze version recalls monumental sculpture, the softly pink hued cast glass evokes the more ethereal side of death and the human soul.
Linking all of the works in the exhibition, which also includes several studies on paper, is the artist’s keen sense of the emotive power of color and her unwavering dedication to craft. Throughout her entire career, Chicago has not only chosen her media to compliment and emphasize the content and meaning of her works, but has pushed the materials and techniques to their limits in order to do so. The works in this exhibition employ a variety of glass techniques: casting, etching, glass painting, copper gilding and in some instances combining glass with bronze, a very technically challenging process.
Judy Chicago in Glass will remain on view through January 15th, 2022.