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!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • 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.