Leon Golub · Paintings

Monumental paintings inspired by media images of rioters, mercenaries and death squads will be on exhibition in the second show at the new JCCC Gallery of Art. The paintings are the works of New York artist Leon Golub, a very important contemporary American artist. The paintings in the exhibition are challenging, consistent with the Gallery’s commitment to the students and community. The new Gallery provides them the opportunity to view important work, work they might not be able to see otherwise. This is the first time that an exhibition of this stature has been available to Johnson County audiences.

Gallery director Bruce Hartman states, “I was so impressed with Golub’s work when I approached it on a technical level, from the sheer power of the images. But from a historical perspective the works are equally impressive.” Five of the paintings at the JCCC Gallery of Art are 10 feet tall and at least 14 feet long; the largest is 18 feet long. They are confrontational, depicting mercenaries and death squad police or hapless victims of political violence. Golub composed the works deliberately to look immediate. These are real people in real situations. We see violence every night on television, what’s happening in the Mideast, South America, Central America. Golub gives us the same sense of physicality and immediacy of man’s inhumanity to man, and his paintings are usually composites of images from photographs.

Living in Europe before he settled in New York in 1964 influenced the style and content of his earlier work. During these years, Golub produced figure paintings in the style of ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan art. By the 1970s his themes shifted to contemporary political events. Golub continued in the figurative tradition, but grappled with issues of social consciousness. During the 1980s, much of American art, feminist art for example, reflected a resurgence in social issues and concerns.

Born in Chicago in 1922, Golub graduated in 1942 with a BA in art history from the University of Chicago, a BFA in 1948 from the Art Institute of Chicago, and in 1950 he completed his MFA. Golub’s works have gained him enormous success in recent years. A one-person exhibition at Susan Caldwell Inc. in New York in 1982 was hailed as the triumph he had struggled for over the past 3 decades. The exhibition put to rest the notion that he was a painter of modest accomplishment. In 1982 he was teaching at the Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, the School of Visual Arts in New York, and at Rutgers University where he became the John C. Van Dyck Professor of Visual Arts. A major retrospective at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., in 1985 featured many of the works now on display at JCCC.

The gallery guide includes an essay by Michele Rowe-Shields, Museum Administrator/Curator of Exhibitions, Cranbrook Academy of Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

The Golub exhibition is on loan from the Eli Broad Family Foundation, Santa Monica, CA. From here, the exhibit will travel to the Boise, Idaho, Art Museum. We are most grateful for the Broad Foundation's support, as well as the assistance of Foundation Curator Michele De Angelus and Registrar Kristin West.