When Judy Chicago's multimedia exhibit The Dinner Party opened in the late 1970s, it was almost as shocking to the art world and to society at large as the first exhibit of Impressionists nearly a century before. And like that art, it stretched the limits of artistic vision and expression, soon becoming a landmark in art history. A symbolically rich and complex visual chronicle of the achievements of more than 1,000 women in Western civilization, The Dinner Party has been seen by nearly a million viewers worldwide. Judy Chicago's earlier books about the exhibit are now collector's items. In this new work, the artist takes you on a personal tour of The Dinner Party, discussing it genesis, aesthetic and historical meaning, now and for the future. Many new illustrations highlight this account, which celebrates the work's reemergence in an exhibition at the UCLA/Armand Hammer Museum and Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
The book would, I think, give an excellent idea of the installation for anyone who has never seen it. There is one color plate of the entire room with its dimmed lighting that conveys the atmosphere of near religious awe experienced by those who walked slowly and quietly around it. Additional color plates show close-ups of the individual place settings and details of embroidery.
The book also has a section for each of the historical periods, with biographies of the women honored, as well as an introduction that describes the creation of the work and its early, controversial years.