bumpy creates a more meaningful experience

Elaine Lustig Cohen

Prem Krishnamurthy asked the audience to stand in the same stance that Elaine Lustig Cohen greeted her guests:  feet apart and hands on hips. Krishnamurthy referenced a TED talk given by Amy Cuddy: Your body language may shape who you are, in which she explains “power posing.” Thus began the 3-curator talk/conversation at the Jewish Museum about Elaine Lustig Cohen (1927-2016).  The extraordinary start to this conversation was not unusual for Prem Krishnamurthy.  He is known as an outlier and a polymath… and he was a close friend of Elaine Lustig Cohen.  The title of this event “How We Do It” focused on how these three curators: Prem Krishnamurthy, Cole Akers and Shira Backer came together to mount this show:  one room devoted to Elaine Lustig Cohen. This is part of  a larger exhibition at the Jewish Museum, which surveys their permanent collection.

Vitrine is fixed “box” in this room. The first challenge was how to relate Elaine Lustig Cohen’s work to this vitrine.



















Prem Krishnamurthy outlined three critical aspects of “How We Do It” structure, stories and subjects (telling and receiving) All three curators agreed that the place and shape of the vitrine in the center of the room was initially problematic. The vitrine is a given in this space.  It cannot be moved.  The design of the interior of the vitrine was created to mimic the work of Lustig Cohen.  The 45 degree angle was critical.

Elaine Lustig Cohen, painting 1967











Elaine Lustig Cohen, 1967, Exhibition catalogue published by the Jewish Museum.
















We were asked to look around the room.  The paintings were hang at various heights.











This was another instance of challenging the protocol of all artwork in museums and galleries hung conventionally at 60 inches.  In arranging the work in this unorthodox fashion, the curators hoped to convey the avant garde nature of Lustig Cohen’s work.

Elaine Lustig Cohen was a graphic designer, type designer, logo designer, book designer, archivist,  painter, sculptor and photographer.
“The wonderful thing about being an artist is you never know exactly where you are going with a process.”
Interview with Elaine Lustig Cohen, Bomb Magazine, Michael Baron.


Elaine Lustig Cohen. Catalog for the exhibition “Primary Structures” at the Jewish Museum. 1966.
















I asked all three curators whether or not they felt the Jewish Museum had continued the legacy Lustig Cohen in their catalogs and exhibition design.  Krishnamurthy answered.  Yes. I believe that the more challenging an exhibition, one with friction, one that is the opposite of slick … creates a “bumpy” experience – which is a more meaningful experience. The last comment/question during the Q&A:  “You’ve changed the way I look at this room. Thank You”.  I couldn’t agree more.

This is How We Do It
Masterpieces and Curiosities
The Jewish Museum
April 4, 2019 6:30 pm



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