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Leon Golub (American, 1922–2004)
LOT ID: 89000
They Will Torture You My Friend (in collaboration with Nancy Spero), 1971

Screenprint
18 х 24 in. (45.72 x 60.96 cm.)
Signed, stamped, hand signed in pencil by both Leon Golub and Nancy Spero
Hand numbered 23 from the edition of 150
Stamped on reverse: COPYRIGHT © 1971 BY LEON GOLUB AND NANCY SPERO
Print/Casting Year 1971
Edition 23/150
Foundry/Publisher Printed at Chron Screen Print, New York, Published by David Godine, Center for Constitutional RIghts
Lot description
"They Will Torture You My Friend" by figuative master Leon Golub in collaboration with the renowned feminist artist Nancy Spero is a three color silkcreen proofed under supervision of the artist and printed by hand on Arches paper at Chiron Screen Print, New York. It was published by the Center for Constitutional Rights, in Washington, D.C. It is a classic example of protest art from the early 1970s - the most influential and desirable era.

This historic graphic was created for the legendary portfolio "CONSPIRACY: the Artist as Witness", to raise money for the legal defense of the Chicago 8 - a group of anti-Vietnam War activists indicted by President Nixon's Attorney General John Mitchell for conspiring to riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. (1968 was also the year Bobby Kennedy was killed and American casualties in Vietnam exceeded 30,000.) The eight demonstrators included Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale. (The eighth activist, Bobby Seale, was severed from the case and sentenced to four years for contempt after being handcuffed, shackled to a chair and gagged.) Although Abbie Hoffman would later joke that these radicals couldn't even agree on lunch, the jury convicted them of conspiracy, with one juror proclaiming the demonstrators "should have been shot down by the police." All of the convictions were ultimately overturned by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Both artists also had a special personal connection to Chicago, as Golub was born in Chicago and attended the University of Chicago where he received a degree in Art History in 1942. Nancy Spero grew up in Chicago and enrolled in the School of the Art Institute before moving to New York City.

Leon Golub and Nancy Spero prepared the following joint statement which was reproduced on the colophon page of this influential Portfolio: "THEY WILL TORTURE YOU, MY FRIEND" is taken from the writings of Antonin Artaud and is typical of his angry absurdist writings with their visionary political connotations. This connects to the politics of injustice and terror."

This silkscreen has superb provenance: it comes directly from the original Portfolio: "Conspiracy The Artist as Witness" # 23/150, which also featured works by Alexander Calder, Jack Beal, Romare Bearden Sol Lewitt, Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, Larry Poons, Peter Saul, Raphael Soyer and Frank Stella - as well as this one by Leon Golub and Nancy Spero. It was housed in an elegant cloth case, accompanied by a colophon page.

This is the first time since 1971 that this important work has been removed from the original portfolio case for sale. It is becoming increasingly scarce because so many from this edition are in the permanent collections of major museums and institutions worldwide.

Born in Chicago in 1922 (d. 2004), Leon Golub is renowned for his incredibly powerful figurative paintings which explore themes of subversion, murder, racial inequality, gender ambiguity, and various forms of oppression. In Chicago he became involved with other painters, known as the Monster Roster group, which believed that an observable connection to the external world and to actual events was essential if a painting was to have any relevance to the viewer or society. Golub received his B.A. in Art History from the University of Chicago in 1942.

Nancy Spero (1926-2009) was both artist and activist. She continually engaged herself with contemporary political, social, and cultural concerns. A renowned feminist, Spero was a member of the Art Workers Coalition (1968-69), Women Artists in Revolution (1969), and in 1972 she was a founding member of the first women’s cooperative gallery, A.I.R. (Artists in Residence) in SoHo, New York City. Her artwork often focuses on women and how their representations differ according to culture.

They Will Torture You My Friend (in collaboration with Nancy Spero) by Leon Golub
  • They Will Torture You My Friend (in collaboration with Nancy Spero) by Leon Golub
  • They Will Torture You My Friend (in collaboration with Nancy Spero) by Leon Golub
  • They Will Torture You My Friend (in collaboration with Nancy Spero) by Leon Golub
  • They Will Torture You My Friend (in collaboration with Nancy Spero) by Leon Golub
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