Robert Zakanitch was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and now lives and works in New York City. Zakanitch began exhibiting in the late 1960s with Color Field paintings, but he first achieved real note as one of the founders of the Pattern and Decoration movement in the mid 1970s. When Zakanitch took up decorative imagery, he had been working as a color field abstractionist faithful to the Minimalist grid as the structural system of his painting. Once into decoration, he retained both his color sophistication and his respect for structure but translated the latter into a free, often organic floral motif rendered in a painterly fashion.

In 1975, Robert Zakanitch met Miriam Schapiro during a term of guest teaching at the University of California in San Diego, and early the following year in New York the two painters organized the Pattern and Decoration Artists. The group held their first meeting in a SoHo loft space, thereupon revealing not only to the art world at large but even to the participating artists that more painting was being done than Conceptualism had allowed anyone to believe.

Zakanitch works are in major collections throughout the world including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Modern Art.