The Roster: Leon Golub

last edited on Fri. April 1 2016

The ringleader.

In his lifetime, Leon Golub (b. 1922, Chicago; d. 2004, New York City) was indisputably the most successful of the postwar Chicago artists.

Charismatic and outspoken, he was making mature work in school in the late 1940s, including large paintings of figures and heads often referred to as “personages.” His first major showing outside Chicago was Younger American Painters curated by James Johnson Sweeney at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1954.

Golub was married to Nancy Spero. Together they left Chicago for Europe in 1959, then returned and settled in New York in 1964.

Stylistically, he morphed from painting generalized figures and mythological creatures to more overtly political scenes painted on loosely hung tarps. Spero: “Leon was a prime organizer and articulator, painting ‘monsters’ and honing his skills as a theoretician.”[1]

Golub’s example was a catalyst for many other artists in Chicago and remains so today.

[1] Nancy Spero, quoted in “On the Other Side of the Mirror: A Conversation with Robert Enright,” Codex Spero: Nancy Spero—Selected Writings and Interviews, 1950–2008, ed. Roel Arkesteijn (Amsterdam: Roma, 2008), p. 28.

This text was adapted from John Corbett’s “Introducing: The Roster” in the Monster Roster exhibition catalogue.

“I’m simply a reporter. I report on these monsters because these monsters actually exist. This is not make believe; this is not fantasy; this is not symbolism. It is but it isn’t. These situations which call these forces into existence actually exist.”

—Leon Golub

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