Judith Bernstein

Studio Voltaire is pleased to present Rising by New York-based Judith Bernstein, her first solo presentation to take place in the UK. For this commission, the artist has 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 dominates the back wall of Studio Voltaire’s distinctive gallery space, the artist has 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, climb the high walls of the vaulted gallery space, surrounding and challenging her fluorescent “cunt” painting. In the second gallery space, Bernstein presents 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 is supported by The Elephant Trust.


Purple TV presents a look at Judith Bernstein, documenting her energetic process, as she creates works for her first solo presentation in the UK at Studio Voltaire, London.

“I’m currently exploring the origin of space, time and infinity, using the rage of the active cunt and the expanding universe. Fluorescent colour and rich oil paint portray the chaos and nuclear explosion that is the Birth Of The Universe. These works also explore gender issues with a literal dialogue between the angry cunt and the phallus. My art is a self-portrait of my ideas and provides a window into my subconscious. It’s serious fun,” said Bernstein in a text exclusively published in Purple Fashion magazine, Issue no. 19.


About the artist

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.

Image credit

Judith Bernstein, Rising, 2014. Installation View, Studio Voltaire, London. A Studio Voltaire commission. Courtesy of the artist and The Box, Los Angeles. Credit Andy Keate.

Film credit

Judith Bernstein, Rising, 2014. Courtesy of Purple TV and Studio Voltaire, London. Credit Laura Bushell.