Judith Bernstein was born in 1942 in Newark, New Jersey. She earned a B.S. in 1963 and an M.S. in 1964 from Pennsylvania State University and a B.F.A. and M.F.A. from Yale University in 1967. Both an artist and activist, Bernstein was a founding member of A.I.R. Gallery and has also been involved with the Guerilla Girls, Art Workers’ Coalition, and Fight Censorship Group. She was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 2016.
Bernstein has used explicit sexual imagery throughout her career, deliberately confronting the viewer with aggressive language and representations in order to destroy the embedded societal notions of censorship and gendered hierarchies. Much of her early work in the 1960s, such as The Fun Gun (1967), used phallic imagery as a visual metaphor for the toxic masculinity and paternalistic leadership that led to the Vietnam War. Bernstein’s regularly reprised Signature Piece – in which she writes her name in enormous, frantic line directly on the wall - confronts the heroic posturing of the (usually male) Expressionists.
Bernstein’s work can be found in public and private collections around the world, including the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Jewish Museum, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich; Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens; and the Sammlung Verbund Collection, Vienna.