Kitaj’s Puzzle

I am impressed above all with R.B. Kitaj’s collage-like works, produced by superimposing numerous pieces of information and artistic citations. With their powerful colors, they radiate at first a kind of lightness and beauty.

Desk, split in two, with content

R.B. Kitaj, Desk Murder 1970–1984 © Birmingham, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

The actual stories behind the motifs become clear only when one reads the texts that Kitaj attached to his pictures. These additional levels turn the collages into fraught projection screens for personal, historical, political, cultural, and religious themes and events. Suddenly text and image can no longer be viewed and understood separately. A putatively beautiful, gaily colored work becomes a vexating puzzle.  continue reading