Feminist art icon Judy Chicago is heading in a new direction with her latest body of work: up, specifically to the head. Now on view at Santa Fe’s David Richard Gallery, “Heads Up,” showcases a recent body of work, a thrillingly diverse collection of small-scale two- and three-dimensional pieces in cast glass, bronze, and ceramics.
Focused on the form and dimension of the human head, these works are a means to figuratively explore aspects of social perception and behavior. Her skillful amalgamation of materials and applied finishes furthers her ongoing studies of smooth and pristine surfaces, here on the level of outward appearance. The Janus-faced Twin Heads (2013), for example, registers a slight shift in temperament from the translucent to the shiny, where minor wrinkles in the soft folds of her nondescript models’ skin seem alternately sage, and too sharply highlighted. Similarly, Face Lift (2013) juxtaposes the organic texture of the ambiguously aging body with the machinic liquid sheen of lacquered bronze.
A series of painted glass panels explore the underlying musculature and skeletal apparatus of the stern and wizened expressions Chicago produces—exposing the superficiality of facial armor in a form of emotive medical rendering. While tears from the crying subject of Torn Up (2012) even drip below the shoulder to form the letters spelling out the work’s title at the base of the Starfire glass, the biological portrait presents an image of muscles in a state of serene relief. The more existential portrait, Tasting the Mortal Coil (2012), imagines the wasting away of the very muscles that both inspire empathy and ensure personal communication through kinesics.
“Heads Up” is on view at David Richard Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 14th–July 26th, 2014.