Critiques of Power and Toxic Masculinity—Kelly Baum on ‘Leon Golub: Raw Nerve’

Those who knew Leon Golub will tell you that he was one of the most caring artists you could meet, a personality seemingly at odds with his paintings—merciless, unflinching expressions of what he called “the nightmare of history”—a nightmare that “has no beginning and no end.” Leon Golub: Raw Nerve, on view at The Met Breuer through May 27, 2018, is the first museum retrospective of the painter in this country since a 2001 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. It wastes no time catching us up to the artist’s work. On the morning that I interviewed Kelly Baum, who organized this survey, I arrived at the galleries shortly before she did. While I waited, I took a seat near Golub’s final paintings, a vantage from which I could see, as the elevator doors opened, shock wrench the groggy faces of early-morning visitors.