What if Women Ruled the World?
Jeffrey Deitch presents Judy Chicago’s eleven-banner installation, along with accompanying studies on paper, for the first time in the U.S. Initially created as part of “The Female Divine,” a fashion collection made in collaboration with Dior, this exhibition is organized in conjunction with three interpretations of the iconic “Lady Dior” bag for the fifth installment of Dior Lady Art, a Dior-sponsored international initiative.
The matriarch of second wave feminist art, the title of Chicago’s exhibition comes from one of the first monumental (17 feet long by 12 feet wide) banners in the exhibition: “What If Women Ruled the World?” These banners are opulent, luscious, with medium lines of appliqué, embroidery, braiding and handmade brocade on velvet. Recalling medieval heraldic tapestries, they are textiles gone militant, while retaining their soft edge. But easy and universal narratives of reclaiming the feminine domestic sphere of handicraft falter: each of these tapestries was made by female students at the Chanakya School of Craft in Mumbai, a nonprofit which instructs women artisanal techniques typically reserved for men.
The questions the banners ask range from the specific (“Would Old Women Be Revered?”) to the somewhat strange (“Would Buildings Resemble Wombs?”) to the systemic (“Would There Be Private Property?”). The questions can read as probing, as a method of world building through imagining—but they can also read as rhetorical, or even fatalistic. “Would both men and women be gentle?” asks one from a gold floral brocade, intimating, gently, that power corrupts. What if women ruled the world? What would change? What would stay the same?
Judy Chicago, Banner #1 English: Would God Be Female?, 2020. Appliqué, embroidery, brocade, and braiding on velvet backing 120 x 73.75 x 0.5 inches. Hangs on steel bar.
©Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society, NY. Photo © Donald Woodman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Courtesy of the artist and Jeffrey Deitch, New York.