Horsing Around II, Leon Golub

Leon Golub (American, 1922 - 2004) 

Horsing Around II, 1982 

Acrylic on canvas 

Purchase, 1990 (5964.1)

Born and raised in Chicago, Leon Golub was associated with the “Monster Roster,” a group named after the Chicago Bear’s epithet “monsters of the midway” and given to a small group of artists for their grotesque figuration. After serving in World War II, Golub returned to Chicago to study at The School of the Art Institute on the G.I. Bill. Although his early work refers to sculpture of classical antiquity, it includes implicit references to modern war and conflict in the scraped surfaces of his canvases, conjuring lacerated and burnt flesh. From the 1970s until his death, his work was explicitly political. Golub’s paintings address subjects ranging from the Vietnam War to the torture and terrorism conducted by mercenaries and death squads in Africa and Central America. In his series, Horsing Around, Golub depicts thugs alongside women whom they have claimed through intimidation or prostitution. Staring directly at the viewer, the confident, menacing demeanor of the man is deeply unsettling. His malevolence is palpable and suggests an unthinkable level of cruelty that mankind is capable of perpetrating.