Ronald Brooks Kitaj
Ron Kitaj (1932-2007) was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to a Viennese mother and Jewish stepfather. In 1959 he moved to London, where he attended the Ruskin School of Art and the Royal College of Art where his tutor & Mentor was Carel Weight . He became more closely associated with British rather than American painting. Kitaj and his lifelong friend and fellow student at the RCA David Hockney were both involved with the beginnings of the Pop Art movement in Britain headed by Peter Blake Kitaj’s paintings are grounded in exquisite figurative drawing, their smooth surfaces splashed with areas of bright color and covered with collage-like elements filled with planes, people, and objects. He held many intellectual interests, including surrealism, art and political history, literature, and Jewish identity, which influenced his work. Many of his works were inspired by his political ideas and by reactions to stories he heard from his family about the Nazis during World War II. In 1963 Kitaj had his first one-man exhibition at the Marlborough New London Gallery. In 1964 he was represented at the Venice Biennale and the Documenta “3” exhibition and in 1968 at the Documenta “4”, Kassel. In 1965-66 he visited the USA and was given his first retrospective at the LA County Museum of Art who in 1971 invited him to be involved with their ground breaking exhibition , merging industry & art.The Exhibition was called â€œMan and Machineâ€ R.B. Kitaj offered the perverse idea of employing the facilities of Lockheed to produce a historical meditation on the 19th century Industrial Revolution, the aim being to examine the first era in which “a modernist presence has taken shape.” Kitaj’s room is a bizarre assemblage of model lighthouses, smokestacks, machined bas-reliefs of railway trucks, photographs of “The Father of Aviation” together with “The Mother and Daughter of Aviation.” There is even a 6-ft. diorama of a mine tunnel with a mouth that is inscribed with uplifting Victorian mottoes: THRIFT, DUTY, SELF HELP and so on. Kitaj ended up as a dissenter from the whole concept. His experience at Lockheed, he reported, proved “a confirmation of the utter boredom I always feel when art and science try to meetâ€”the feeling of very slender accomplishment in those forms of art which pretend to operate scientifically.” . In 1968 he returned to England and became friends with Jim Dine. A retrospective exhibition of his entire graphic work went on tour to Stuttgart, Munich, Dusseldorf, Lubeck and Bonn (1968) and he worked on a project for the exhibition Art and Technology at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He also had a large retrospective exhibition of his work from 1958 to 1981 at Washington, Cleveland and Dusseldorf. In 1997, Kitaj returned to the United States, settling in Hollywood where he died October 2007 .