Poet in Search of His Moose

The title of one of the eleven comic collages by Barry Kite that I have hanging on my walls:

(#1)

Poets and artists notoriously have muses, and poets and their muses are sometimes subjects of an artist’s work: “The Poet and His Muse” by Giorgio de Chirico, “The Poet and His Muse” by Henri Rousseau (both with female muses), and in a very different vein, “The Poet Decorates his Muse with Verse”, a playful photo montage by Duane Michals, with a male muse. Kite’s collage has a central figure that I at first took to be the artist Pablo Picasso, whose many (female) muses were his sexual partners and the subjects of a great many of his works, but that now seems likely to be the poet Pablo Neruda (see below). Women appear in the collage as stylized erotic body parts serving as the landscape the central figure is walking through. Meanwhile, his dogs are in search of the poet’s moose.

The collages are parodic or surreal, and quite funny, combinations of elements from art history and from popular culture, with wry titles. Like Bill Griffiths on art in Zippy the Pinhead, Kite shows great affection for the culture that he ransacks to create absurdist, countercultural works.

Note on Neruda, from Wikipedia:

Pablo Neruda … was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean poet-diplomat and politician Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto (July 12, 1904 – September 23, 1973). He derived his pen name from the Czech poet Jan Neruda. Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

… [In late 1949, a] Chilean singer named Matilde Urrutia was hired to care for him and they began an affair that would, years later, culminate in marriage. During his exile, Urrutia would travel from country to country shadowing him and they would arrange meetings whenever they could. Matilde Urrutia was the muse for Los versos del capitán, which he later published anonymously in 1952.

The inventory of mounted collages (roughly 10.5 x 15 in. images, with generous framing white space) in my house:

— in the living room: #1 above and “Dinosaurs Foraging for Neo-Impressionists in Georgia O’Keeffe’s Backyard II”

— in the dining and office area: “Captives of the Flightless Birds” (with penguins!) and “Rude Awakening at Arles”. The latter on a book cover:

(#2)

On the background painting, from Wikipedia:

Bedroom in Arles (French: La Chambre à Arles; Dutch: Slaapkamer te Arles) is the title given to each of three similar paintings by 19th-century Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh.

Van Gogh’s own title for this composition was simply The Bedroom (French: La Chambre à coucher). There are three authentic versions described in his letters, easily discernible from one another by the pictures on the wall to the right.

The painting depicts van Gogh’s bedroom at 2, Place Lamartine in Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône, France, known as the Yellow House. The door to the right opened on to the upper floor and the staircase; the door to the left was that of the guest room he held prepared for Gauguin; the window in the front wall looked on to Place Lamartine and its public gardens.

(There are no human figures in Bedroom in Arles.)

— in the study / guest bedroom: “The Incredibly Strange Secret of Flamingo Island”; “The Introduction of Reductionist Sensibilities into a Closed Illusionistic System, and the Van They Came In”; and “Luncheon of the Trucking Party” (below):

(#3)

On the background painting, from Wikipedia:

Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880–1881, French: Le déjeuner des canotiers) is a painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. … It shows a richness of form, a fluidity of brush stroke, and a flickering light.

— in the bathroom:”Dancing in the Dark” and “Sunday Afternoon, Looking for the Car” (below):

(#4)

On the background painting, from Wikipedia:

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (French: Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte) painted in 1884, is one of Georges Seurat’s most famous works, and is an example of pointillism.

— and in the bedroom: “Sunflowers” and “Cubicle-ism” (below):

(#5)

One more, not on my walls: “A Little Postmodern Night Music” (nice title):

(#5)

And then there are the Christmas cards — many, many cards, more each year. One book of them, from 1998:

(#6)

(I have a signed copy, from Kite when he was traveling on the community art festival circuit. Here in Palo Alto we exchanged talk about collages, and I gave him some of mine. He’s been eking out a living from his art work for some time now, which requires, among other things, relentless self-promotion. Something I’ve never been able to manage, with the predictable result: in 20 years, I’ve sold exactly one collage copy, and recently was unable even to give copies away, so they went out in the trash. Well, they’re XXX-rated.)

From Barry’s website, his brief biography and his artist’s statement:

After receiving his B.F.A. in film from UCLA, Chicago-born Barry Kite spent the next five years traveling overseas. Returning to the San Francisco Bay area, he wrote and performed his own style of surreal poetry in local coffee houses. Renewing his interest in collage, he combined photographic and hand-coloring techniques to create the foundation of his current work.

The exclusive use and alteration of found imagery is a natural extension of found poetry and the basis for what he considers his visual poems.

Barry Kite’s style of social and political parody via the “re-positioning” of art historical and contemporary media imagery has won him several art competition awards and placed his work in numerous private and corporate collections.

Under his studio name, Aberrant Art, Barry Kite’s work can be found on an extensive line of note cards and greeting cards. Several calendars and three books of his work have been published by Pomegranate Communications, Portland, Oregon.

Artist Statement: My work is based on found iconographic imagery from painting, photography and popular media initially via discarded books and magazines but of late: the internet. This imagery is deconstructed, then re-composed from different sources as parody with the important blending of and interpretive tension of word (via title) and image. The technique is based on using imagery as language to build context as individual words are combined to create ideas. Uncommon juxtapositions and themes are sought to provoke thought and discussion. The less common, the merrier. A little art literacy is helpful, as many implied narratives draw on historic reactions and interpretations of various employed artists and works from their own era. Prior history with a certain painting or photograph always colors one’s interpretation. Being aware of the fact that an artist went blind or crazy or bankrupt (you know who you are) during his productive period, or that a work was once critically excoriated always adds a certain flavor. My works are narratives. The challenge is to tell a story without words: using images, colors, composition. Only the words in the title are permitted to assist, or provoke, or mislead the viewer – drawing on that part of the brain dealing with abstraction.

4 Responses to “Poet in Search of His Moose”

  1. Barry Kite Says:

    While often mistaken for the poet Pablo Neruda, the gentleman in “Poet in Search of his Moose”, if memory serves, was from a collection of photographs: one in particular picturing a busy city street corner with a crowd of people crossing. The gentleman pictured seemed to stand out in his anonymity, with his private thoughts–reminiscent of an Edward Hopper character. Or maybe it was Pablo Neruda.
    –Barry Kite

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Thanks, Barry. I was just about to give up, decide that I wasn’t going to discover the original photo on my own, and e-mail you.

      I used to have a hundred or so folders and boxes of clippings (labeled by categories) that I used for my collages, few of them from sources I could later identify. So I appreciate your uncertainty about the source of the “poet” image.

  2. Jim Jenkins Says:

    Many years ago, I was in a shop in the Castro and came across some wonderful collage prints. I purchased one and had it beautifully framed for my roommate at the time. I’ve lost track of the roommate and have tried to find the artist ever since. The print was called something like Dinosaurs foraging for neo-impressionists in Georgia O’keeffe’s backyard. Another one that I planned to return and buy but didn’t was Expulsion from the Garden with Adam and Eve being physically evicted by cops. I see similarities with Barry Kite’s work and wonder if those were his?

  3. Jim Jenkins Says:

    I apologize for not reading closely enough the first time. I see that you mention the very collage that I have been searching for and in fact have it hanging in your living room. I am envious. Thank you for this blog, Mr. Zwicky. Without it I wouldn’t have found Mr. Kite for whom I’ve been searching for about 25 years. Cheers!

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