Guston painted Gladiators in a social-realist style favored by many left-leaning artists in the 1930s, a style that reflected in part the political and aesthetic influence of the Mexican muralist movement led by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. At the time he painted Gladiators, Guston was painting murals in New York as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program. The theme of fighting children seen here is reworked from Work and Play, a mural the artist painted in Long Island City, New York.
Gallery label from Against the Grain: Contemporary Art from the Edward R. Broida Collection, May 3–July 10, 2006.
Like many politically engaged artists in the 1930s, Guston was influenced by the Mexican muralist movement led by José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera,and David Alfaro Siqueiros. During that decade, Guston painted murals in various cities in the United States as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program. The theme of fighting children in this painting is reworked from a WPA mural he painted in Long Island City, Queens, earlier the same year. Hooded Klansmen first appeared in Guston's work in the 1930s, in response to a Ku Klux Klan attack on one of his Los Angeles murals. Of these figures Guston later said, "They are self–portraits. I perceive myself as being behind the hood. . . . I almost tried to imagine that I was living with the Klan. What would it be like to be evil?"
Gallery label from 2011.