Judith Bernstein Aims to Satisfy Your Curiosity About the Vagina

Her explosive graffiti-style paintings are on view at Mary Boone.

After decades of being largely ignored by the art world, artist Judith Bernstein—whose explosive, grafitti-style depiction of genitalia has more than once gotten her censored or banned from shows—has burst onto the New York art scene with renewed force over the past few years.

“Voyeur,” her new show at Mary Boone Gallery, which was curated by Piper Marshall and runs through June 27, is the latest in a string of high-profile shows that are drawing serious attention. From October 2012 through January 2013, the  New Museum exhibited “Judith Bernstein: Hard” and other recent solo exhibitions included at Mitchell Algus Gallery, New York (2008), The Box, Los Angeles (2009, 2011, and 2013), and Alex Zachary, New York (2010). Bernstein’s work Vietnam Garden (1967) is currently featured in the newly reopened Whitney Museum (see An Exclusive Walk Through The New Whitney Museum With Director Adam Weinberg and How Erotic Can Fine Art Get Before It Becomes Pornographic?).

Artist Paul McCarthy has clearly taken notice and has been snapping up works in recent years. These include: a Supercock drawing and The Fun-Gun, a painting, both in her 2009 show at The Box; as well as Fuck Vietnam, A Soldier’s Christmas (Baby, The Fuckin You Get Aint Worth The Fuckin You Take!) and Oh Wow! a drawing depicting a couple screwing on roller skates at her second exhibition in 2011.

Dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth, owners of Hauser & Wirth, acquired the remaining six “Fuck Vietnam” paintings.

We recently sat down with Bernstein on the eve of the Mary Boone show opening. Upon meeting Bernstein—who is animated, witty, and charming in person—it immediately became apparent why she has often performed as a stand-up comedian. But perhaps more importantly, it is easy to see how her energy and passion for her work has carried her through decades of relative art world anonymity (see Sex Sells as NADA New York Becomes The World’s Most Erotic Art Fair and Artist Reenacts Origins of the World at Musée d’Orsay—Yes, That Means What You Think).

“For a long time I was very discouraged,” Bernstein told us, “because of the fact that I was not showing. I didn’t have a show in New York for 24 years. That is a long time in this city and, also, people have very short memories. A  lot of people when they’re not showing they’re not working. That was not the case with me. I work for myself.”

Bernstein said after all these years it is particularly gratifying to be able to show her work as she is making it. Of the pieces in the current show she says, “I’m creating my own universe from my own observations…about women and also about men.” She added, “My work has a lot of humor in it.”




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