R.B Kitaj

Marlborough Gallery | New York

This exhibition contained some of the best paintings that R. B. Kitaj has made. An easy mastery of a variety of kinds of touch was explicit, often within one work. This is perhaps most obvious in The Garden and Rock Garden (The Nation), both 1981, but it is also evident in the figural works. They go beyond the portrait drawings in their fantasy and their iconographic complexity.

Indeed, what is really crucial about these works is the iconographic issues they raise. They remind us that pictorial representation is important not simply in itself but for the way it undermines any “natural,” sensuous appreciation of paint as paint and any direct understanding of a scene as realistic. Iconography forces us into a realm of meaning that bends both technique and subject matter to its own logic. Thus, though one acknowledges the brilliance of Kitaj’s painterliness, and the inherent drama and complexity

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