Art serves as a reflection of its time, uniquely able to channel the affective dimensions of the complex modes of relation among individuals and institutions—intimately and internationally—that animate our world. Politically motivated artists put this fact of art to good use, demanding that viewers enter into dialogue with the injustices and inequalities taken to task in their work.
Leon Golub is one such artist. The staunchly political subject matter of his work has found enduring resonance throughout the latter half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, with recent attention to local police violence and authoritarian abuses abroad underscoring its ongoing relevance. Golub’s work, along with that of his wife, artist Nancy Spero, is now on view at Tate Modern, London, as part of a special presentation highlighting the donation of new works by Jon Bird, an artist and one of the foremost scholars of Golub’s art-making. Tate Publishing has also just released ‘A Brief History of Protest Art,’ a new book by Aindrea Emelife that offers a history of protest art from Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ to today. Excerpted below is Emelife’s text on Golub’s ‘White Squad V’ (1984).