Split between Pallant House Gallery and the Jewish Museum, this retrospective of American-born artist R B Kitaj aims to unpick the different facets of the artist’s identity, as a ‘wandering Jew’ existing in a fragmented world.
Curated by Dr Eckhart Gillen for the Jewish Museum Berlin, Obsessions will be the first UK retrospective of Kitaj’s work since his controversial Tate exhibition in 1994, a period in his artistic career that he himself deemed the ‘Tate wars’. Kitaj’s work is most recognised by its collage-like nature, and its exploration of subjects including isolation, the human psyche, culture, history and politics.
Pallant House Gallery's exhibition, subtitled Analyst for Our Time, showcases over 50 major paintings, sketches and prints dating from the 1960s to his death in 2007. The selection includes some extraordinary portraits of those who inspired Kitaj along his artistic journey, notably The Neo-Cubist, a portrait of close friend and fellow artist David Hockney, and Juan de la Cruz, in which the Spanish mystical poet is portrayed as a black soldier being transported to Vietnam.
Kitaj’s extensive writing is often thought to have enriched his art and in 1989 he published the First Diasporist Manifesto, a text discussing the Jewish dimension in his art and thought that complemented the often politicised symbolism present throughout his art. Subtitled The Art of Identity, the Jewish Museum's exhibition explores how Kitaj expressed his Jewish heritage through more than 30 carefully selected works, including the iconic If Not, Not, Cecil Court, London W2 (The Refugees), The Wedding and The Jewish Rider.