Feminist artist Judy Chicago is getting a long-overdue retrospective of her work, which is now on view through January at the deYoung Museum. And as part of the festivity around the show, Chicago will be bringing one of her performative "smoke" pieces to the Music Concourse on Saturday, October 16.
The exact nature of the piece will need to be seen the day of. These ephemeral pieces, in which Chicago has used colored smoke and fireworks to create land art and momentary images and experiences, date back to the 1960s, as she explains in the video below. Chicago used deserts and other Southern California landscapes to create her smoke pieces — sometimes called "Atmospheres" —and she says she thought big and wanted to fill the Grand Canyon with smoke, but that never came together.
The last smoke piece she did in a series was "A Butterfly for Oakland," which was a patterned series of fireworks, in the shape of a butterfly, on the shore of Lake Merritt beside the Oakland Museum of California in 1974.
When the Getty Foundation launched Pacific Standard Time in 2011, it was a chance for many in the art world and the broader public to be reintroduced to Chicago's work — as a California artist who worked continually through the 1970s (the scope of the show ended in 1980). And since then, Chicago said, she's been asked to create new smoke pieces — and the Nevada Art Museum in Reno has acquired the archive of all of Chicago's dry ice, smoke, and fireworks pieces, which are now on view through next June.
Judy Chicago recreated the butterfly idea with fireworks for a new piece as part of that 2011-12 show at the football stadium at Pomona College.
The deYoung piece will be cheekily called "Forever de Young," as KQED tells us. And it will feature "a new performance atop a 27-foot-high scaffold that creates clouds of ephemeral color manipulated by the wind."
Below is an interview with Chicago by deYoung curator Claudia Schmuckli, who took charge of the current retrospective. And the pair discusses why they chose to hang the show essentially backwards, opening with deYoung's newest work and working back to the 1960s.
Get tickets to Judy Chicago: A Retrospective, here, and "Forever de Young" will happen on October 16 at the Music Concourse starting at 5:30 p.m. It will also be livestreamed on YouTube.
Update: Calm down, commenters. This is the official word on the "smoke" from the deYoung: "Judy Chicago is a passionate advocate for the environment and animal rights, as explored in her retrospective at the museum. The materials employed in the performance are commonly used in film, photography, and theatre productions, and contain only non-toxic color pigments that will be released into the air temporarily and will then disappear."