Leon Golub
Reclining Youth, 2003/1959
Jacquard tapestry
82 x 169 in.
edition of 5

In 1959, Leon Golub boldly countered the emerging monolith of Abstract Expressionism with a series of figurative paintings inspired by sculptures at the Great Altar of Zeus at Pergamon. Golub seized upon the violent, hyper-masculine grotesquerie of the Hellenistic friezes as a visual lexicon with which to engage contemporary issues of militarization and oppression. In Reclining Youth, the artist reinterprets the figure of a dying soldier from the Pergamon Altar with a palette of blood, bone, and black; dense layers of paint, scraped in places to reveal raw canvas, generate a dynamic texture that evokes raw flesh and wounded skin. Excited by the prospect of exploring a new medium, Golub worked with Magnolia Editions to transform the image into a tapestry in 2003, resulting in an equally evocative but remarkably different piece. The work’s brutal impasto is softened by its translation into warp and weft; a rosy palette breathes new life into the original’s somber grays, while the continuity of woven threads seems almost to have healed the figure’s wounds. -Nick Stone