Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s

Solo en Inglès

Leon Golub, White Squad I, 1982. Acrylic on linen, with metal grommets, 120 × 210in. (304.8 × 533.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of the Eli Broad Family Foundation and purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee 94.67 Art © The Estate of Leon Golub, Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.

Leon Golub: White Squad really means death squad; that’s another term for it. These are attempts on my part to grapple with events today, to grapple with media in a certain sense, and to put things up front as much as I can. 

Narrator: This painting depicts five men in the aftermath of an execution. Leon Golub drew on a variety of journalistic sources in making the composition, which responds to large-scale human rights abuses committed by death squads in Central and South America. Golub was particularly concerned with these groups because they often worked on behalf of governments who had been installed or supported by the C.I.A.

Golub once described his style as a form of “barbaric realism.” Much of its roughness comes from his painting technique. He described his method in this 1999 lecture, recorded at the Whitney. 

Leon Golub: I build up the paint, I build up a number of surfaces, and I scrape it down using solvents. In a sense I skin the canvas to remove the external traces of color and form, and often will rebuild toward the end partially.