Commentary

R.B.Kitaj’s Second Diasporist Manifesto gives a lot of pleasure. He describes himself as kind of Talmudic commentator—of his own painting. Proposition #236 reads:

“As a Jew, I am FOR INTERPRETATION…As a post-20th century painter, the very idea of NO COMMMENTARY bores me: I love to read commentaries about painting by terrific minds (Bataille on Manet, Schapiro on Cézanne, Artaud on Van Gogh, Mondrian on Mondrian etc., etc.). It’s human, even for an unterrific mind like my own.”

Actually, he doesn’t talk about his own works overmuch. More often he has an idea and says “must do a picture like that” or “paint a such and such picture!” He gives orders to himself with the enthusiasm of a beginner—making a list for the day when he finally knows how. I would find it charming if I didn’t just know exactly how he felt—being a beginner again myself. Meanwhile, he’s right, commentary is human and inevitable.

RBKitaj lafter giving a talk on his work at the Hammer museum in LA, shortly before his death.

RBKitaj after giving a talk on his work at the Hammer Museum in LA, shortly before his death.

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