R.B. Kitaj
In Our Time: Covers for a Small Library

Exhibition on view October 28 through November 20, 2016 

This suite of screenprints was inspired by Walter Benjamin’s essay entitled “Unpacking My Library:  A Talk about Book Collecting” (1968), in which Benjamin espouses on the joys of reading, collecting, and simply handling books. Kitaj himself a long-time bibliophile, took a cue from Benjamin’s essay as well as from Duchamp’s “Readymades” (being defined as “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist."

Kitaj chose the covers of books from his beloved personal library.  Like Benjamin, Kitaj absorbs great energy and inspiration from the book as both object and purveyor of meaning. Like Duchamps “Readymade” sculptures, Kitaj’s book covers are to be recontextualized in the milieu of art, stripped of their original meaning to be observed-simply as aesthetic art objects.  However, unlike Duchamp, who advocated investing objects with a detached and unemotional meaning, Kitaj used objects that he could fill with his own meaning and which are personally significant to him.  Unrelated to the text on the pages, these books may evoke a specific time period, a particular person, or a memorable insight.

The books replicate the actual wear and tear of the well-worn book jackets and each one is a beautiful example of screenprinting.