Judith Bernstein (b. 1942, New Jersey) lives and works in New York. Recent shows include: Judith Bernstein: Birth of the Universe, Gavin Brown’s enterprise (2014), New York; Judith Bernstein: Birth of the Universe (2013), The Box, Los Angeles; Keep Your Timber Limber (Works on Paper) (2013), ICA, London; Judith Bernstein: HARD (2012), New Museum, New York; Sinister Pop (2012), The Whitney Museum, New York; The Historical Box (2011–2012), Hauser & Wirth, London & Zurich and The Comfort of Strangers (2010), MoMA PS1, New York. The artist is represented by The Box, Los Angeles.
Rising by New York-based Judith Bernstein, was her first solo presentation to take place in the UK. For this commission, the artist conducted a production residency in the gallery, working on a new body of large-scale paintings and drawings, including her largest painting to date.
Bernstein’s expressive practice embodies the psychological amalgamation of sex, violence and feminism, in varying orders and priorities. Birth of the Universe is a recent series of expressive paintings made using oil and fluorescent paint exploring the chaos, violence, and the nuclear explosion that was The Big Bang. She probes the origin of space, time, and infinity, using the rage of the “active cunt” as the primal source in the expanding universe. These paintings delve into issues regarding relationships and gender with a literal dialogue between the “active cunt” and the phallus.
In contrast to Golden Birth of the Universe, which dominated the back wall of Studio Voltaire’s distinctive gallery space, the artist revisited her pivotal ‘screw’ works; scratched charcoal drawings of hardware screws that morph into massive phallic presences. These powerful works of feminist protest, which Bernstein first began in 1969, climbed the high walls of the vaulted gallery space, surrounding and challenging her fluorescent “cunt” painting. In the second gallery space, Bernstein presented Birth of the Universe #33, painted using fluorescent paint and exhibited in blackout light, the work completely absorbs the viewer into the physical and psychological space of the painting.
Bernstein attended the Yale School of Art as a graduate student in the 60s, during a time when Yale had an all-male undergraduate program. The gender inequality was extreme. This fact and many others led to her fascination with feminism and political injustices. Bernstein was an early member of many art and activist organisations including Guerrilla Girls, Fight Censorship and Art Workers’ Coalition, as well as being a founding member of A.I.R. Gallery (the first gallery devoted to showing only female artists), where she had her first solo exhibition in 1973.
This exhibition was supported by The Elephant Trust.
Judith Bernstein in conversation with Louisa Buck, Art Critic and Writer, 05 July 2014 Studio Voltaire hosted an in conversation between New York-based artist Judith Bernstein and writer Louisa Buck, discussing Rising, Bernstein’s first solo commission outside of the US at Studio Voltaire as well as her prolific five decade-long career at the forefront of feminist activism and political injustice.
Performance by The Raincoats, 18 July 2014
For a special performance set within the exhibition Rising, Studio Voltaire invited Ana da Silva and Gina Birch, founding members and songwriters of The Raincoats – seminal post-punk band, ‘godmothers of grunge’ and inspiration to a generation of riot grrrls.
Judith Bernstein, Rising, 2014. Installation View, Studio Voltaire, London. A Studio Voltaire commission. Courtesy of the artist and The Box, Los Angeles. Photo: Andy Keate