Naked Ladies, Political Messages

R.B. Kitaj, Juan de la Cruz, 1967 © R.B. Kitaj Estate. Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo

 Only now do I realize, really examining my favorite Kitaj painting closely, that Juan de la Cruz also has those explicit and aggressive sexual components so peculiar to his work: naked women are a vehicle for political messages (here about the Vietnam War) and historical episodes, for instance about St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and their Jewish origins, which I find inherently problematic. Despite this, however, I like the painting: the many powerful colors, the deep blue sea under the brilliant blue sky, the green cap on the soldier’s head, and the yellow behind him. The painting and the contradictions it binds together – the soldier’s finely-drawn features beside the sober geometric forms – they emanate something of summer’s optimism.

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Christine Marth, Publications