Painter, printmaker, and political activist, Leon Golub has been making art about the disparity between power and powerlessness since his earliest paintings in the 1940s. He evolved his expressive figural style through an extensive study of sources ranging from classical sculpture to illustrations in the popular press. In the 1970s he began communicating his universal themes by referencing specific events and contexts in series centered on political leaders, mercenaries, and victims of torture. His monumental unstretched canvases portray disturbing tableaux of evil and human vulnerability in a piercing critique of contemporary society.
Golub has completed more than one hundred thirty prints since making his first lithographs in 1946 in his native Chicago. He works in lithography, screenprint, and etching and often explores his images through varying states and colors. He frequently employs photographic processes to generate an initial image, which he then manipulates, distorts, and reworks before printing. Golub has collaborated with a variety of workshops, including Tamarind Lithography Workshop in the mid-1960s and Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper in New Brunswick, New Jersey, more recently. He also frequently self-publishes his prints.
Golub's White Squad series depicts policemen in scenes of government-sponsored abuse. In this lithograph he reiterates images from two related paintings, dramatically juxtaposing them on a stark background in a shocking vision of terror. The abrupt cropping of the arm in the upper right, and Mannerist distortion of the looming head at the left, are typical of Golub's jarring compositional strategies. In addition, by turning the gaze of one of the abusers out of the picture frame, Golub implicates the viewer as a bystander in the horrifying event unfolding and intensifies the unsettling psychological impact of the composition.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Wendy Weitman, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 215.