The Jew And The Carrot

Designing and Critiquing the Modern Kitchen

By Devra Ferst

  • Print
  • Share Share

For many of us who love to cook, our favorite place in our homes is the kitchen. It’s our lab, family gathering room, where we learned from our mothers and fathers, the ultimate date spot and the source of our shabbos dinners.

Courtesy of MoMA

Sadly this narrative is mostly missed in “Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen”, a new exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art that takes an in-depth look at home kitchen design during the 20th century. With around 300 objects ranging from images of the 1959 “Kitchen Debate” between Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon; common kitchen items like mixing bowls, and art by the likes of Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol, the exhibit traces the development of the efficient, modern kitchen, and women’s role in it.

The two pivotal pieces of the exhibit are full kitchens. The first, which sparked the idea for the show, is a rare 1926-27 “Frankfurt Kitchen,” designed by Grete Schütte-Lihotzky, a German architect. The mostly gray and white, organized and spare space served as the model for thousands of public housing units constructed near Frankfurt between the wars. With a focus on utility, efficiency and hygiene — and a female designer behind it — it was revolutionary at the time.

The second kitchen in the show is a late 1960’s fold out unit, “Spazio Vivo,” (living space) designed by Virgilio Forchiassin for the Italian company Snaidero. The white, black, red and yellow construction of drawers, counter spaces and shelves was designed to be a fully assembled kitchen that buyers could fold out in their homes, symbolizing a sharp change in the historic Italian kitchen. A Time magazine article published at the time of its production said it showed “Not perhaps the immediate death of the nuclear family — but certainly the substantive critique of it.”

The exhibit, which focuses primarily on the first 70 years of the decade, repeatedly reiterates designers’ efforts to make kitchens and appliances more efficient. It also shows what designers and artists viewed as the future of the kitchen. A startling, life-size wall image from the early 1970s envisions the kitchen in the year 2000 as an egg shaped room with a swivel chair in the center.

The art representing the last 30 years of the century serves mostly as a critique of the kitchen and particularly women’s historical role in it. The artists displayed used the kitchen as an emblem and space to rage against as their contributions to the women’s liberation movement.

Though, in its attempt to critique, the exhibit as a whole neglects the significant contemporary narrative of a return to the kitchen, as a source of pleasure and enjoyment for women and men, and leaves the viewer wondering where kitchen designers and artists think we are headed next.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: MoMA, Kitchen, Design

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.