One of the 20th Century’s unsung heroes, American artist Judith Bernstein first started making politically motivated art in the 1970’s. Bernstein developed a practice of utilizing charcoal to scale up words and images onto paper. With broad energetic strokes she obliterates the outline of her drawings, atomizing the subject matter into its most elemental, bodily representations. Affiliated with anti-war art movement, often Bernstein’s inscriptions vibrate, reverberating off the page. These drawings serve to captivate your senses and redirect them to the corporeal. Bernstein first created them during wartime crisis in the 1960’s and its aftermath then again in the 1990s, precisely during a moment when questions of humanity and empathy were being challenged. Medea is pleased to collaborate with Bernstein, featuring her Horizontal, 1973 as well as Voice, 1995 and a newly commissioned text work, Medea for its 2019 artist collaboration.
Judith Bernstein is a New York based pop artist. Her important, political drawings had their debut in 1973 at AIR, the first non-profit gallery directed and maintained cooperatively for and by women artists in the States. She had graduated from Yale where she was making drawings inspired in-part from scratchiti found in public restrooms. For her first show, Bernstein lifted the mundane, minimal shape of a screw, scaled up its size and heightened the link between bodily representation and war-time missile. With each panel at 12.5 feet tall, Bernstein used her entire wingspan to physically press the charcoal onto the large sheets paper. “The scale of Bernstein’s seven new drawings, Phallic Screws,” Laurie Anderson soon reported, “made Claes Oldenburg look like a miniaturist,” she continued, “The blatant equation of screw and phallus went beyond a metaphor to create a new hybrid icon.” Bernstein’s ready-made motif conjures up a concatenation of references: part screw, part phallus, part missile, part object, part sculpture, part drawing. The impressive physicality of these works deform the depiction to reveal to us just how aggression and patriotism is locked together, loaded through perceived masculinity. Cindy Nemser soon nominated Bersntein’s equally large-scale work Horizontal for inclusion in the exhibition “Women’s Work—American Art 1974,” held at the Philadelphia Civic Center. Much to the surprise of Bernstein and fellow participating artists, the venue’s executive director censored the large-scale drawing, deeming it lacking of “social value.” While colleagues as diverse as critics Lucy Lippard, Clement Greenberg, art historian Linda Nochlin, and editor John Coplans rallied around Bernstein, their petition against removal faltered. This suppression of challenging work makes the celebration of Bernstein all more important. In light of the 1974 censorship, Medea is pleased to distribute the work alongside “Voice,” an artwork which demonstrates the importance of speech as a corporeal action. Alongside these two potent artworks, Medea also commissioned the piece featuring the brand’s namesake, the fierce mythological goddess.