Elaine Reichek

Elaine Reichek

The Jewish Museum

Elaine Reichek, Sampler (Jesse Reichek), 1993. Embroidery on linen, 18 5/8 x 20 1/2 inches. From the series “A Postcolonial Kinderhood.” Courtesy the Jewish Museum, New York. Photo: Richard Goodbody, Inc.

August 20, 2013

Elaine Reichek
A Postcolonial Kinderhood Revisited
August 23–October 20, 2013

The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Ave at 92nd St
New York, NY 10128
Hours: Friday–Tuesday 11am–5:45pm; 
Wednesday closed (Shops/Café open
11am–3pm); Thursday 11am–8pm

T +1 212 423 3200 
F +1 212 423 3232


In 1993, the Jewish Museum commissioned Elaine Reichek to create an installation exploring her American Jewish identity. Through the use of braided rugs, a Colonial-style canopied bed, and other traditional decorative furnishings, A Postcolonial Kinderhood reimagined Reichek’s 1950s childhood bedroom, its décor symbolizing desired assimilation into mainstream American culture. 

The new installation, A Postcolonial Kinderhood Revisited, will include some elements recently created by the artist. The exhibition’s return presents an opportunity to contemplate its historical significance, as well as introduce new lines of inquiry. As Reichek observes, “The tension around the immigrant experience can never lose its currency in America.”

The bedroom, the installation’s central metaphor, is the room where children sleep and play, where childhood dreams and nightmares merge. Reflecting on the estrangement she felt in seeing little evidence of her parents’ history as the children of immigrant Jews or of Jewish culture in her childhood home, Reichek darkened the room and made the furniture slightly smaller than normal, so that visitors feel off-kilter, anxious, foreign. The hand-stitched samplers hung on the bedroom’s walls reveal not the Christian homilies typically associated with the domestic art of embroidery of the 18th and 19th centuries, but rather wry statements from Reichek’s friends and relatives about the alienating experience of growing up Jewish in America. For Reichek, the investigation of her own childhood history revealed that the life of a middle-class Jewish girl encompassed the same kinds of ambiguities that affected many of America’s ethnic, religious, and racial groups.

One of the earliest major works to confront the paradoxes of American Jewish identity, A Postcolonial Kinderhood remains resonant today.

Writers and artists respond

Elaine Reichek
Thursday, October 10, 6:30pm  
Artist Elaine Reichek discusses her exhibition A Postcolonial Kinderhood Revisited. Free with Pay-What-You-Wish admission, but RSVP required.

The artist
Elaine Reichek (b. 1943, America) lives and works in New York, and has exhibited extensively in the United States and abroad for nearly forty years, including solo exhibitions at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and The Jewish Museum; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; Tel Aviv Museum; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; Stichting de Appel, Amsterdam; and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. Her work is in the collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, The Jewish Museum, Museum of Arts and Design, and the Brooklyn Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum, Philadelphia; Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas; Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach, Florida; and the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, among others. Reichek’s work was included in the 2012 São Paulo Biennial in Brazil, the 2012 Whitney Biennial in New York, and the Cheongju International Craft Bienniale 2011 in Korea. Reichek is the recipient of The 2013 Francis J. Greenburger Award. She was awarded an Art Matters Foundation grant in 2012, a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in 2011, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006. Reichek is represented in New York by Zach Feuer Gallery, and in Santa Monica, California, by Shoshana Wayne Gallery.

A Postcolonial Kinderhood Revisited was organized by Norman Kleeblatt, Susan and Elihu Rose Chief Curator.

The original purchase was generously supported by Melva Bucksbaum, Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Shafran, and Joan Kaplan Gifts; Fine Arts Acquisitions Committee Fund; and Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Cheryl and Henry Welt, Paula Krulak, Toby Devan Lewis, and Henry Buhl Gifts.


Elaine Reichek at The Jewish Museum
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The Jewish Museum
August 20, 2013

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