Page 82-83 - HUC-JIR - The Eye of The Collector

Leon Golub (1922-2004)
Leon Golub made a significant contribution to twentieth-century painting with his
representations of war and racial conflict. Originally from Chicago, Golub was born in 1922
and earned his B.A. in art history from the University of Chicago in 1942. Immediately after
graduation, he served in the U.S. Army Engineers as a cartographer during World War II. After
the war, he earned a B.F.A. (1949) and M.F.A. (1950) from the School of the Art Institute of
Chicago on the GI Bill. In 1951 he married artist Nancy Spero, who would be his companion for
the next fifty years. The couple often exhibited together and won several joint awards.
Golub’s work was largely a personal response to the political and social forces that he saw
shape the world during the Vietnam War and at home in the United States. He depicted
power relationships, war, human suffering, racism, and terrorism, aiming to depict violence
differently from the way it was portrayed by the media. This work evolved as did America’s
participation in world politics. After World War II, his paintings were full of the kings, monsters,
shamans, and warriors of classical art. His Vietnam-era series “Napalm and Vietnam” focused
Golub’s social conscience from the generic to specific outrage. During the 1970s, he painted
portraits of political and religious leaders, from Castro and Franco to Nixon and Kissinger. In
the 1980s he explored terrorism in its many forms
killing fields, political oppression, torture,
sexual enslavement, and urban street violence. From hundreds of photographs of people,
he amalgamated figures that were flat and stranded on a color plane. Golub likened the
physical act of painting to a sculptural technique, repeatedly layering and scraping away the
surface of a work until it bore its own history of markings.
After brief sojourns in Florence (1956-1957) and Paris (1959-1964), with the help of a Ford
Foundation Grant) that weremotivated by the belief that Europeans would bemore receptive
to Golub’s representational style, Golub and Spero settled in New York, where he divided his
time between making art, teaching, writing, and political activism. Golub taught at Write
Junior College in Chicago (1950-1955), Indiana University (1957-1959), the Institute of Design
at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the School of Visual Arts in New York, and in later years
as Professor in the Visual Arts Department at Rutgers University. He was active in the Artists
and Writers Protest Group against the war in Vietnam from 1964 to 1972, authored essays on
contemporary art, and wrote for
Golub had his first solo show at the Contemporary Gallery in Chicago in 1950, followed by
one-man exhibitions at the Pasadena Museum of Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art in
London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the NewMuseum of Contemporary Art
in New York, the Saatchi Collection in London, the Eli Broad Family Foundation in Los Angeles,
the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, the Brooklyn Museum, the Musée d’Art
Contemporaine de Montréal, and the Malmö Konsthall in Malmö, Sweden. He participated
in group shows, including the Museum of Modern Art (1959), the Sao Paulo Biennial (1962),
the Corcoran Gallery Biennial (1963), the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1964, 1966),
the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (1972), and the Whitney Museum of American
Art. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago,
the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Collection of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian
Institution, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel, among others.
Golub died in 2004.
Leon Golub
The Lovers
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