Image: All images, details of Liza Lou, Kitchen (1991–1996) via Whitney Museum of American Art, Gift of Peter Norton. © Liza Lou.
The Whitney Museum of American Art has added Liza Lou’s Kitchen to its permanent collection. A full-scale replica kitchen encrusted in beads, Lou describes the work as a ‘monument to women.’ It is a monument to the kind of household labour that goes thankless and unsung. The kitchen took five years to make, with Lou working by hand and on her own. The work was first shown at the New Museum in New York in 1996 and was Lou’s breakthrough piece.
The Whitney explains: "After researching kitchen design manuals as well as historical tracts about the lives of nineteenth-century women, Lou made drawings and three-dimensional models to achieve a loose outline of Kitchen’s floor plan. She then fashioned the objects out of paper mâché, painted them, and applied the beads in a mosaic of surface pattern. This work, in Lou’s words, “argues for the dignity of labour”—a labour that here manifests as process and subject alike, and which is linked to gender, since crafts and kitchen work are traditionally female domains. Kitchen might also be read as a commentary on American life—even the American dream—with its ubiquitous products (Tide and Cap’N Crunch), aspirations (glittery surfaces and suburban assimilation), and realities (dishes in the sink and other kitchen drudgery)." Watch Lou talk about the work in a Whitney Museum video:
Lou has exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Fondation Cartier, France, Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among many others.
In 2005, Lou moved to South Africa, where she established a studio with Zulu beadworkers. Lou currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Lou is the recipient of a 2013 Anonymous was a Woman Award and she is a 2002 MacArthur Fellow.