A collection display of work by Leon Golub and Nancy Spero is now open at Tate Modern, London.
Sharing a living and working studio for over thirty years, the artistic dialogue of these two artists produced extraordinary bodies of politically-engaged art.
Leon Golub (1922–2004) and Nancy Spero (1926–2009) each made art exploring the dark sides of human relationships, especially political power, violence, and oppression. They met in 1949 while at art school in Chicago, married, and lived in Europe for several years before settling in New York City in 1964. Their loft studio in the city became a site for working – often late through the night – and a community hub, where artists met for political discussion and activism.
Golub produced monumental paintings on unstretched canvases. They usually depict soldiers, vigilantes, and scenes of conflict and torture. Later he made darkly humorous works on paper about sex, desire and death. Spero abandoned painting in the 1960s and became known for paper scrolls covered with cut-out female figures displaying narratives of women’s history. Her work often includes fragments of poetry, literature and philosophy, addressing women’s subjugation and resistance.
Both artists used images of monsters and mythology as emblems of human urges and tensions in society. Works in this room feature wild dogs, goddesses and other allegorical figures. All of the works and materials on view are from the collection of Jon Bird, a London-based artist, writer and curator who worked closely with both artists since the 1980s, producing exhibitions and books. The items on view offer a personal glimpse into each of the artist’s practices and their personalities. They are a testament to the relationships that support artists’ creativity and political engagement.