Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue


The Serpentine is delighted to present this publication on the occasion of the exhibition Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue at the Serpentine Gallery, London.

The survey exhibition of the American figurative painter Leon Golub – his first in a London public institution since 2000 – highlights key aspects of the artist’s oeuvre from the 1950s until his death in 2004. This publication includes an essay by the exhibition’s curator, Emma Enderby, charting the trajectory of Golub’s life and practice through the selection of works in this exhibition, which are illustrated in full. The Serpentine has also invited artists and writers to contribute texts and memories of Golub. Artist Julie Ault selects excerpts from a 1994 interview between Golub and Spero to focus on the inextricable relationship between their practices. From their first meeting in 1984 to watching the attacks of September 11 unfold, art historian Jon Bird’s text records his friendship with Golub and his experiences of staying with the couple in New York. This is accompanied by ephemera from Bird’s archive. A newspaper article written by critic and curator Guy Brett in 1982 identifies the raw power of Golub’s then-new ‘Mercenaries’ and ‘Interrogation’ series when shown at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. Writer and Professor of Sociology Avery F. Gordon reprints extracts from an interview with Golub from 1999, while artist Hans Haacke shares his admiration for Golub as well as a poignant photograph. Three photographs of Occupy protesters, the worldwide movement against economic and social inequality, by artist Alfredo Jaar pay homage to Golub’s lifelong activism as both a citizen and an artist. Prompted by a photograph taken in his studio in 1989, Golub and Spero’s assistant Samm Kunce gives a personal account of the generosity shown by both artists towards their team. In response to Golub’s ‘Mercenaries’ series about state power in Latin America during 1980s, artist Oscar Murillo’s text narrates his father’s experience as a unionist in Colombia during these times. Serpentine Co-Director Hans Urich Obrist shares a selection of faxes from the 1990s sent by Golub, annotated with drawings and notes. Artist Lucy Raven’s found photograph represents an interview with Golub which never took place. Artist Martha Rosler presents her previously unpublished conversation with Golub at the New Museum, New York in 1984 and artist Kiki Smith pays a personal tribute to Golub’s inspiring commitment to figurative painting.