A Note on Golub

SPEAKING BACKWARDS, THE CENTRAL commitment of the artist may be said to be a rejection of current esthetic idiom. None has more diligently forsworn all that is most topical than Leon Golub. His career, which can be viewed in considerable perspective—I, for one, have been aware of his work for some eighteen years now—is marked by this recalcitrance to enter the mainstream. Feature the paradox: he contributes to it without entering it. In fact, his vanguard position is determined almost by virtue of this refusal. Not that Golub’s older paintings are no longer unjudgable by “approved” esthetic standards. One of the surprising features of the older work is that all the once flayed and burned flesh is now (while it was not then) liable to be seen as constantly altered surface. What this means is that Golub’s earlier brackish coruscations are now perceivable as broad and messy big shapes of

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