The gift of Gigantomachy II (1966) to The Met in 2016 by The Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts, with the support of the artists' sons, Stephen, Philip, and Paul Golub, is the occasion for this selective survey of Leon Golub's work. Born in Chicago, Golub (1922–2004) occupies a singular position in the history of mid- to late 20th-century art. His devotion to the figure, his embrace of expressionism, his fusion of modern and classical sources, and his commitment to social justice distinguish his practice as an artist.
Alongside the monumental, terrifying Gigantomachy II, Leon Golub: Raw Nerve features paintings from the artist's most important series, including Pylon, White Squad, Riot, and Horsing Around. These are accompanied by a suite of early paintings that reflect Golub's study of antiquity, a group of unsettling portraits of the Brazilian dictator Ernesto Geisel, and works on paper that represent subjects of longstanding interest to the artist, from mercenaries, interrogators, and the victims of violence to political figures, nudes, and animals, all of them rendered in the raw, visceral style for which he is justly celebrated. Together, these paintings attest to Golub's incisive perspective on the catastrophes that afflict human civilization and his critique of brutality and belligerent masculinity. The artist's work has much to teach us in the 21st century, as does his belief in the ethical responsibility of artists.
(Photo: Leon Golub, Gigantomachy II (detail), 1966. Acrylic on linen, 9 ft. 11 1/2 in. x 24 ft. 10 1/2 in. (303.5 x 758.2 cm) © The Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY)