Leon Golub was an American painter known for his unflinching depictions of brutality and war. As a leader of Chicago’s figurative movement in the 1950s, Golub gained recognition for his large-scale, politically charged, highly topical works that directly address issues of war, racism, sexism, and power.
For Golub, abuse of power is both an ancient and a contemporary condition, always present in the world. Power has the ability to corrupt those who hold it. Golub portrays a horrible world of degradation, where humans have more in common with objects than subjects, where the right to freedom is flagrantly abandoned. Golub confronted contemporary issues from the Vietnam War to the proxy wars in Central America. He also confronted the legacy of slavery in the US and the injustices of apartheid in South Africa. “What is power? How is power shown?” the artist once asked. “Would we rather look at pretty colors and shapes? Do we flinch at seeing our own crimes and nightmares in ink?” Golub believed that it was an artist’s responsibility to confront difficult issues faced by society. New Art Brut shares this responsibility and pays reverence to artists like Leon Golub. Violence and the abuse of power is like a festering sore at the root of our humanity propelling us all to defend human dignity. Leon Golub’s historical legacy cannot be over stated in a time where omnipresent war and aggression dominate our daily life.