The artist Judy Chicago legally changed her surname to that of the city where she was born and raised, but her art education and career is forever tied to the West. She’s especially connected to California, having pioneered Cal State University Fresno’s Feminist Art Program and developing her signature smoke sculptures in the southern part of the state beginning in the Sixties. She calls New Mexico home, and now the Nevada Museum of Art’s Center for Art + Environment Archive Collections is home to her entire fireworks archive, which also encompasses her dry ice and colored smoke works.
“The significance of the Judy Chicago archive materials is that they open up a new way of seeing how art walks in the world—her Atmospheres remind us that the world and its art are three-dimensional, mathematical but filled with exuberant color, and affirm the endurance of the human spirit even as the dry ice and smoke dissipate in front of our eyes,” said the Center’s director William L. Fox.
It’s quite a coup for the museum, as the 80-year-old Chicago is still on fire (no pun intended). She spoke to a sold-out crowd for NMA’s exhibit “Laid Bare in the Landscape” last year, her razzle-dazzle, pyrotechnic performances are popping up all over, and it’s the last portion of her oeuvre to be placed (the National Museum of Women in the Arts and Penn State and Harvard universities also house archived materials).
“Judy Chicago: Dry Ice, Smoke, and Fireworks,” as the archive is known, includes thousands of objects from correspondence to clothing to photographs for 45 projects dating from 1967 to the present as well as a set of 12 “Atmospheres” exhibition prints with rights to lend and reproduce. But you’ll have to wait a little longer to experience it. Due to the pandemic, the premiere exhibition has been postponed until October 16, 2021, in conjunction with NMA’s Art + Environment Conference.