new-york

Leon Golub/Nancy Spero

Josh Baer Gallery

“There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” This chilling observation of Walter Benjamin’s is nowhere more fully taken to heart than in the work of Leon Golub and Nancy Spero. A two-part presentation surveyed work from the last four decades, first with selections from the ’60s and ’70s, then from the ’50s and ’90s. Welcome as it was, the first half of the exhibition was the less surprising. During the period it covered, Golub’s and Spero’s oeuvres were complementary, each faithfully situated in a distinct sphere. What the second part of the show revealed was just how similar their work once was, and how, in indirect ways, it is again becoming intertwined.

Given the amount of misunderstanding these two artists have provoked, simple observations may bear repeating. One is that Spero’s work is not simply about “positive” or empathic images of

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