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“The recurrently astonishing gaiety of Golub’s imagination, in dire neighborhoods of dirt and blood, advertises how free a mind may be that dares itself to welcome truths that are respectable exclusively in being true.”
– Peter Schjeldahl for The New Yorker
Paintings and Drawings
By: Peter Schjeldahl
American painter. In 1942 he received a BA in art history from the University of Chicago and enlisted in the US Army. After World War II he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA 1949; MFA 1950). The Holocaust and atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were early themes in his work.
During the 1950s Golub received considerable attention through exhibiting in New York, Chicago, London and in Paris, where he lived from 1959 to 1964. In his paintings of this period he depicted man as the victim of his own civilisation, incorporating imagery from Assyrian, Hittite and Aztec art.
In his Vietnam series (1972–4) Golub confronted the immoral destructiveness of contemporary violence. This shift from an ideal concept to a precise exposition required him to specify weapons, uniform and napalm through references to news photography, which give a mordant, contemporary edge to the pathology of power. From 1970 Golub no longer used stretchers for hiscanvases but hung them directly from nails in the wall, sometimes cutting away portions of the paintings. This heightened immediacy continued in a series of some hundred portraits (1976–9) of world leaders such as Brezhnev, Franco, Pinochet and Kissinger.
Golub's aggressive images are charged with immediacy and brutality. The evil-doers look out from the painting with shocking intimacy, making the observer privy to their dirty secrets. Golub's work stresses political conscience and has an unswerving commitment to the expression of man's existential relationship to the world.
National Portrait Gallery, ‘Leon Golub: Portraits of Power’, London, England
Museo Tamayo, ‘Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue’, Mexico City, Mexico
Serpentine Gallery, ‘Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue’, London, England
Hauser & Wirth, ‘Leon Golub. Riot’, New York NY
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Palacio de Velázquez, ‘Leon Golub’, Madrid, Spain
The Institute of Contemporary Art, ‘Currents’, Boston MA
The Met Breuer, Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason 1950-1980, New York NY
Whitney Museum of American Art, ‘Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s’, New York NY
Musée international de la Croix-Rougeet du Croissant-Rouge, ‘Trop Humain’, Geneva, Switzerland
Tate Modern, ‘A Chronicle of Interventions’, London, England