How artist Judy Chicago tried breaking through the art world’s boys’ club

In the 1960s and 1970s, LA’s art scene was a boys’ club, and Judy Chicago wanted in. Born Judy Cohen and originally from Chicago (she changed her name to reflect her native city), she says she had to “toughen up” if she wanted to be part of California’s art scene.

Judy Chicago’s breakthrough came in 1974 when she did something decidedly un-masculine: Her installation piece called “The Dinner Party.” It was a massive banquet table with place settings depicting female genitalia. The placemats were inscribed with the names of women artists, writers, and historical figures. 

“The Dinner Party” was a sensation when it debuted. Some prominent art critics dismissed it, but crowds still wanted to see it. It overshadowed Chicago’s other work.

Now a collection from Chicago’s years in California is on display at the Jeffery Deitch gallery in LA. It has pieces that haven’t been seen in nearly 50 years. It’s called “Judy Chicago: Los Angeles.”