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Leon Golub: Live & Die Like a Lion? at The Drawing Center
Leon Golub, Aging Golden Sphinx, 2002. Oil stick and ink on vellum, 8 x 10 inches. Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York. Art © Estate of Leon Golub/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photo: Cathy Carver.
NEW YORK, NY.- The Drawing Center presents Leon Golub: Live & Die Like a Lion? on view in the Main Gallery from April 23–July 23, 2010. The first major museum exhibition to focus on the late drawings of the American artist Leon Golub (1922–2004), this presentation features approximately 50 oil stick and ink on Bristol board and vellum drawings made between 1999 and 2004. It also includes Golub’s only existent unfinished painting—a chalk sketch of two lions— which he started in 2001 but never completed, as well as preliminary ‘background’ drawings and the artist’s original source material from a variety of wide-circulating periodicals. This exhibition is curated by Brett Littman, Executive Director of The Drawing Center, and will travel to the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL (September 21, 2010–December 12, 2010) and The Museum Het Domein, Sittard, Netherlands (January 22, 2011–April 24, 2011).

Although he was most often noted as a painter, Golub used drawing as a foundational tool in his practice. The late drawings on view mark a stylistic and thematic shift from a long-term preoccupation with the atrocities of the external world towards an exploration of the personally revelatory. Departing from his earlier formal constraints, the drawings made after 1999 reveal a liberation of the line and transparency in the mark-making process. Incorporating both pure abstraction and representational forms, Golub used icons such as animals, species composites, and highly-sexualized females in dialogue with skeletons to expose his interest in human virtues, attributes, and shortcomings. Never fully abandoning the political, the drawings often include farcical or contextually specific text. The results are candid examples of an aesthetic immediacy and newfound freedom in the artist’s late work.

Leon Golub was born in Chicago in 1922 and studied art history at the University of Chicago before serving in the U.S. Army as a cartographer during the Second World War. When he returned to Chicago he enrolled as a painting student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received an M.F.A. in 1950, and took his first series of life drawing classes. Along with a group of like-minded artists, including Cosmo Campoli, George Cohen and Nancy Spero, whom he married in 1951, Golub sought to develop a figurative style that responded to the political and existential conditions of the postwar period. Golub drew upon diverse iconography including Greek and Roman sculpture, photographs of athletic competitions, and an archive of journalistic images and mass media. Following a short stint of teaching in the Midwest, Golub and Spero moved to Paris in 1959. Returning to the U.S. by 1964, the artist moved to New York where he created his signature large-scale paintings that responded directly to current events, many of which he staunchly opposed.

The Drawing Center | Leon Golub | Brett Littman |

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