Fuck Vietnam: Early Paintings of Judith Bernstein
In this second exhibition of Judith Bernstein at The Box, you will again find strong works dealing with psychological and subconscious references that take the viewer aback. In the first exhibition, one found Bernstein's seminal large-scale drawings of screws from the early 1970s that confronted the viewer with images of power and sexuality. In this exhibition, as the title "Fuck Vietnam" suggests, you will find works that express a protest of the Vietnam War and the political state of America in the 1960s. These works, primarily from 1966 and 1967, show Bernstein's exploration of painting, before moving to drawing.
These pieces express anger, frustration, sadness and pain with the situation in Vietnam. In Bernstein's screw drawings of the 1970s, there is blatant sexual expression. Bernstein uses imagery and language to explore human nature, power roles and exploitation. In some smaller scale drawings and collages of Bernstein's' from the first exhibition (such as L.B.J, 1967 and Jack-off on US Foreign Policy in Vietnam, 1967) the language was inspired by graffiti in the Yale School of Art's men's room. The graffiti language of these paintings are aggressive and express lewd commentary on political figures such as " Jackie Kennedy sucks John John" and blatant statements about soldiers in Vietnam such as "Uncle Sam Balls Vietnam and gets V.D not V.C." Bathroom graffiti is a place where men were able to express both their fears and consequences about war.
The images of these paintings are rough and edgy. Cockman #1, 1966, depicts George Wallace, the then governor of Alabama, in a coat and tie with a giant pink penis and balls for a head, and two statements: "Cockman shall rise again" and " A portrait of our governor." In another painting, A Soldier's Christmas, 1967, the viewer at first glance sees a Christmas wreath and flashing lights. With closer examination one realizes that the wreath is a woman's' vagina with a pink fleshy interior accentuated with a small American Flag. The painting says, "Baby the fuckin' you get ain't worth the fuckin' you take."
Along with these earlier paintings there will be new drawings expanding the 1966 Sally series. "Sally You Old Fuck-Head" and "Cockman", become sources of inspiration for this new series. In one example Sally asks, "So Women nearing 70 really turn you on!!" These works, like the paintings and many other works of Judith Bernstein, are about her points of view, experiences and ideas that reflect a larger world.
Judith Bernstein received a MFA from Yale School of Art and has lived and worked in NYC for over 40 years. Since her first The Box exhibition in 2009, she has recently been included in The Greater New York - The Comfort of Strangers: PS 1 and The Last Newspaper Show: The New Museum. She had a critically acclaimed solo exhibition at Alex Zachary Gallery. Her work has been written up in articles in Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung and Kunstforum International. Two pieces from our first exhibition: VIETNAM GARDEN, 1967 and L.B.J., 1968, were recently purchased by the Whitney Museum of American Art.