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Leon Golub discusses recent art with Studs Terkel ; part 2

BROADCAST: Nov. 25, 1964 | DURATION: 00:31:51

Synopsis

Golub discusses his work "Man" and talks about his process as an artist.

Transcript

Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.

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Studs Terkel Come back to Leon Golub's art which I feel is what I personally, again this is a personal comment lean to very much because you were speaking about your earlier influences. And this is to be a thread here a continuity. You said it was Orozco. So there was a mural dealing with a certain kind of aspiration of Mexican people. You mentioned Gross a biting comment on post-World War I Germany on certain values, but always seems you are commenting on man man. It's a societal.

Leon Golub Yes. These are my obsessions. In a nicer word these are my interests. This is what I occupy myself with. Yes this is the only thing I'm interested in doing. And I'm interested in simplifying it. That in these paintings by the way they become I think in a certain sense progressively simpler. Or I would like them to ideally and although there, one cannot really characterize one group as against another group but I want to get it simple and direct. An image, kind of reduced in a certain way to a kind of basic proportionate humanity as I can reach.

Studs Terkel Again as we're talking with Leon Golub the artist trying to get a trying to recapture or create or recreate, recreate too because you say you're not afraid of of borrowing, neither would by the way neither was Shakespeare. Nor was Brecht.

Leon Golub The point is if you're going to be a thief you be a great thief.

Studs Terkel But isn't it always, isn't isn't hasn't the works that have endured and lasted. Always been contingent upon something of another era another century one way or another. Hasn't this, haven't the great works always had this

Leon Golub Well yes yes.

Studs Terkel -of continuity

Leon Golub Yes. Sometimes the continuity is not recognized in its own time but we see it subsequently. But there is a, there is a great stream that marches through in this way.

Studs Terkel And yet when you thought of that Greek or Roman statue of that athlete tying his shoe that guy tying his shoe you see. Yours was different in the original. And you said he was had a scarred quality isn't that, he was firey fired.

Leon Golub He was burned.

Studs Terkel He was burned.

Leon Golub Yes.

Studs Terkel As man has been obviously through the centuries. But it's you in 1964 doing it-

Leon Golub Well I like to-

Studs Terkel -not someone

Leon Golub That's right. And I think that the in that burned quality or let's say even let's say a seated figure or a running figure whatever they might be I think they and they are nude these figures they're not clothed in contemporary dress. But to my mind they have the look. Even if they have classic heads they have the look of modern man and the peculiar kinds of gestures of dramatic self-knowledge or lack of self-knowledge that modern man has.

Studs Terkel All your work your your figures your your men all your work. They seem to be in motion. Then nothing static about them and they're they're doing something.

Leon Golub That's this particular series because they are based upon a notion of a great frieze a great mural if you will a great wall of some enormous battle. And that is the presupposition between all underneath all of this painting in a way these drawings and these paintings are all pieces fragments of one great idea one great mural, you see. But now in a certain sense they are separated and they are broken and yet each fragment expresses this-

Studs Terkel The recurring.

Leon Golub -this discrete quality.

Studs Terkel So there there is a what some guy might call a subtext to all your works or text, a battle. There is an ever, a ceaseless conflict.

Leon Golub In this particular group let's say when I did philosophers that group represented something else very much related to this because in the philosopher exists as a necessary part of society just like the babbler does and as we know society today as they have known society in the past. I once did a series of of figures called Sphinxes in which you get a kind of animal's body and a human head. The irreconcilability of these things in a certain sense being the theme of that.

Studs Terkel So the the different aspects of man that the serenity or the thoughtfulness of man. There's man in battle.

Leon Golub Yes. Yes. And in a sense people people have asked me why I come to New York at this particular time and why I went to Paris at that particular time. In a way, it doesn't really matter. The environment is very much the same whether it be New York or Paris.

Studs Terkel You just jumped my next question and that's a question of. You yourself now and the places you've been to and why. When I saw you a couple of years ago you were in Paris. Why, aren't we, first of all, aren't we told, is it true that American art or the New York School has pretty much taken over

Leon Golub Very much so. There is a, there is a vigor and vitality [phone rings] to American art which somehow relates to the very conditions of American life and there is a kind of somewhat of a failure of nerve in European art, and this is very much reflected in conditions in both capitals. As far as I'm concerned this is in a way what I really mean doesn't really matter whether I work in Paris or New York these are timeless figures that they are neither Frenchmen or Americans they're not they're not Jews or Christians they are figures engrossed in this kind of. In a way ultimately contemporary scene which is everywhere today in the Congo too as far as that goes. And in that sense I don't belong anywhere I really feel that I don't belong in Paris and therefore one can live in Paris. I don't belong in New York and therefore I can live in New York, you see. In a certain sense if I belong to these environments. I might feel more self-conscious about that. But in a way these more or less idealized figures can therefore be expressed in the relatively indifferent physical surrounding of these cities. I do feel one quality about New York though which I was very surprised to encounter since I'd been away five years. That was the rude crude power of New York which has excited me. In that sense I am influenced by that environment and I think that New York in a way is a very good environment for these kind of figures since New York is that kind of town in a certain sense.

Studs Terkel At the same time you said just as you can't be of any school. Just as, here is man, your works, man. Timeless, any time, country, any country, man without a label. So you too are the artist without

Leon Golub That's right. That's right. We are at this point in in a sense we are of all countries in all times and therefore I am most willing to strip the Greeks if I can and or to in a sense express a man that is an American man or a European man or man of today. This is in a certain sense it all comes together.

Studs Terkel You speak of the rudeness the crudeness the strength of New York. You began in Chicago, didn't you?

Leon Golub Yes.

Studs Terkel You said you were a student was it the Art Institute?

Leon Golub That's correct.

Studs Terkel Has Chicago has this been an influence on you?

Leon Golub Well I rather imagine it was and now people are saying in a way in what way has Chicago influenced its artists that certain kinds of imagery have emerged out of Chicago. And because there is a very there are characteristic aspects to to American art but they d-they deviate city to city. But we're not really sure whether this is due to the nature of individuals this is the natu-or whether it's due to the nature of the environment itself perhaps it's a combination of this perhaps it's a combination of of the fact that Chicago is further from Europe than New York is that many European. You see, I feel that there was a there is a continuity when European artists came after World W-during World War II and settled in New York and New York the New York school came to its greatest strength. There was a continuity set in motion between the art of Europe particularly French art of the 19th and 20th century and the art of New York which which took over and perhaps superseded the later phases of European art but continued in it. Now most of the people I knew and I myself we were never interested in the continuity of of European art to ourselves. We were more interested in relatively separated societies. Societies far in time far in space very far in a kind of spiritual and and mythical or moral way and their very distance made them close to us, you see. So there's a very great gap. If I am interested let's say at an early stage in my work if I'm interested in the Near East, that's a very great difference than some American artist who is interested in the art of let's say Miro who was very close in time and space to him. And this kind of separation has been a kind of in a certain way motivating factor in dramatizing the isolation of my art the art of others who are in this area from, in a sense, the kind of mainstream of European New York art. And insofar as doing that you see it has set up certain dangers. And so in that the artist might become separated from from tradition. But it has also opened up whole new traditions and whole new ideas that were ignored at this time including the Greek tradition, you see, which was and the figurative tradition which was cast aside largely.

Studs Terkel You feel. Is your work again you are of no school outside of Golub, no label outside of Golub. The field is it right to say there's there seems to be a sense a return on the part of imaginative artists to the figure.

Leon Golub Well, there have been many returns to the figure and the figure had never really left us. That has left us in certain forms it has returned in other forms. I feel that if you if you don't if you judge art more than by a few years you judge it by decades or let's say a half-century then then you look and you pick out maybe half a dozen men who are maybe very great artists in a particular epic or maybe 15 men and then you separate them you'll find that you will not have merely abstract artists nor will you have perhaps merely figurative art. You will have a group of people you see the figure has always been with us. So that it's only insofar as art becomes myopic and intends to view itself internally a small, a group of people set up certain categories and therefore they can state that this is so and this is so and this is so. But in reality, figuration exists with this. But it exists in a I think in in in centred and very strong individuals. And there are a very particular kind like I mentioned Beckmann who is now being shown you see in Boston, will be shown in New York and then in Chicago. And he comes ba-he comes to us again as a very strong figure from this period.

Studs Terkel Certain individuals you feel too who have represented because of their own particular genius have unable to-

Leon Golub That's right.

Studs Terkel -maintain those

Leon Golub There are people like Jacques Marin Dubuffet. See there are there are figurative artists have been working all along. One simply cannot say the figuration has disappeared and then comes back. When it does come when it does disappear and come back in that way it tends to come back in a relatively trivial manner as a kind of minor manifestation. But when it exists in a in an isolated and and significant way then it continues to exist.

Studs Terkel Isn't it true, didn't Picasso say there's no such thing as an abstract pure abstraction? I think it's something in that vein.

Leon Golub Oh yes yes. One could also say of course there is no such thing as a pure you know figurative thing, you know, that all art joins all art at a certain point.

Studs Terkel You mentioned the Greeks earlier, well first Paris because the, I say Greeks because you recently. After our conversation that I left in Paris you you spent some time in Greece.

Leon Golub A cold conversation.

Studs Terkel Yeah. Oh, it was cold. We should point out it was very cold in Paris in his studio. And some of his work was in progress a great deal of it on the floor and you were pointing-

Leon Golub I think it was from the gallery where it's all put on the walls. [laughs]

Studs Terkel It's on the walls. Why Paris? Why did you? Was it was there a romantic reason

Leon Golub People say to me why did you go to Paris? I usually have the sort of tricky answer that I have to live somewhere and Paris is as good a place to live as any and better than most. But I went to Paris because in a way I didn't really feel like going to New York insofar as New York was. It it seemed to me to be the center of Abstract Expressionism. I wasn't particularly interested in in fighting it or accommodating to it that is I, it didn't really concern me at that point because it didn't concern my art. And Paris it appeared to me I might have been wrong in this way, I don't know. Paris appeared to me maybe because of its distance to be much more anonymous much more open open to all kinds of things. Not that it's really better. But in a way one could hide oneself better. I didn't wish to hide but one could if one wished to. There was this kind of quality of of Paris art life. It had always invited artists in this sense. Another thing was that Paris really was much more exotic. I could always go to New York. But at this point I had the means to go to Paris. And then there was the very practical reasons that I wished to extern a lot, not extern, internationalize I mean to say internationalize my reputation. That meant I would I would be interested in exhibiting in Europe and seeing what the European reaction to my work would be. If you're in Europe that's much easier.

Studs Terkel Reflections on Paris of France. Now that you've left it. We think of Paris again. Romantically historically too the city of lights. Where the artists were there in flower a certain turn of the century latter part of the last, this one. Paris today as far as the artist goes in art.

Leon Golub Well, now there are many things one could say about Paris in this way Paris is in crisis at this point. This has been going on for a long time. It was assumed by Parisian artists and Parisian dealers that the kind of success that Paris had as an art center. Let's say running from 1800 one generation after another through the generation of Picasso and Braque. That this would be we would naturally descend fall upon the shoulders of the people who were a younger generation or second or third younger generation than this. As it happened this was not so that the leadership of the art world was wrested from from France after World War II by a series of circumstances most of which had to do with what I feel was in a way the breaking down of of of the breaking down of a sense of security in Europe and in a sense and the kind of root power that the Americans felt and which were able to express in their work. Now when this happened and the Americans became very chauvinistic and American art publications would claim that American art was the greatest in the world. This had of course an influence upon the American collectors who stopped buying Parisian art to a certain extent. This leads to all sorts of complications that we all can recognize in the life of that artistic community. Many art many Parisian artists were very genuinely and very closely identified with American art and did art similar to it. And it, they had a certain success in this direction. Then pop art came along. And this is further further demoralize the French situation because as I've learned recently that there is a great deal of pop art since we've left in August there is a great deal of pop art being exhibited and shown kind of a kind of derivative nature in Paris. So that New York still maintains this kind of thrust and although I have my feelings that the final word has not necessarily been said because Paris still is a kind of open door to people who come from all over the world they come. They may come from Egypt, they may come from Africa, they may come from Romania, Turkey wherever they come from. They come because they are escaping the rather impoverished circumstances of art in their own country. And they are looking for a way and Paris has sometimes provided the avenue and it wouldn't take many people to. All you need are two or three sometimes to make another thrust so that the word you think may not be finished yet.

Studs Terkel Even though the major thrust you say is New York it's quite possible several chapters yet to be written. You see.

Leon Golub Oh well, it's an ever-continuing thing. I myself am not concerned at too many of these levels because my work has gone its own direction and but I'm a most interested observer.

Studs Terkel Yeah I know, observer. But also you're following your own. A Noel Coward phrase your secret heart. No, it's your own throughout. Yet there has been this theme hasn't there? I say I've repeated myself yet I know this theme throughout of yourself and the man and the world. Then never, you could never describe yourself as alienated at all can you?

Leon Golub Well I-

Studs Terkel Maybe detached.

Leon Golub Well, actually I could describe myself as alienated. Because I think that at its fundamental point my work is alienated and separated and that there that there are uglinesses and there is violence in it. And sometimes there's been eccentricity in it. But in a certain way. In a way that I wish to make these work. And insofar as it's alienation it's a kind of the human alienation it's a potentially recoverable alienation. And so I think that in a way my work is really a dialogue between that. That is between the strength and the erosion between the alienation and the, in a sense the recovery of this. And then this this kind of tension I think gives a great deal to the work.

Studs Terkel I wasn't, when I said alienation I wasn't referring to the fact that you would show a Pollyanna work or like, no I meant the fact you are your figures are not dehuman, if aything they are more human. The the the the suffering implicit here in them are the charred, the burned, the the eroded quality if anything makes them through suffering or perhaps even more human.

Leon Golub I think so. I think so because sometimes we here in Chicago and I often in particular have been described as the monster school you see and they say that you make monsters you know. Well in a certain way this is partially true but in a way they would be they're not monsters. However, in a real sense because if they are monsters when they cannot be approached you see, when there is a great distance when the human when the human point has been passed in a sense when something enters insanity past this point of the threshold. Then it's a monster. Insofar as these figures are eroded and have passions and they fall, they crumble or they succeed. They're not monsters you see.

Studs Terkel I never could quite accept that description used. I don't under-I don't know the word monster school. I never could quite, unless, of course, monstrous qualities in man. But if anything this, these seem to be very very human very human.

Leon Golub Well, I think so. I think this, in the the monster appellation in a way is a kind of compliment because it meant that there was a certain shock when first encountering this and therefore people have a tendency when when this appears [phone ringing] you see and it's a compliment too because the work is not decorative it's not pretty. One never calls a monster a pretty penny is never described in that sense. So that's a kind of compliment but it's also misconstrued in that way.

Studs Terkel But monstrous true both in the sense that man that the brutality of man is part of his humanity too.

Leon Golub That's right.

Studs Terkel This very thing that his hugeness and bloodiness and batteredness.

Leon Golub Grossness.

Studs Terkel And grossness is part of his humanity too. But I meant, not machine monster. Maybe that's why. Not robot like monster.

Leon Golub Yes yes yes yes.

Studs Terkel Flesh and blood monster.

Leon Golub That's right. That's right.

Studs Terkel Leon Golub back to. So we're now in a way you went to Paris. Now you mention Grecian art and influences on you a few times you went to Greece recently.

Leon Golub Yes. It's fabulous. Very nice. We traveled through many of the islands. We took the classical. We took the classical tour, you know, through places like Delphi and Olympia where I saw these very great sculptures which moved me very much. In fact I have I don't think I've ever been more moved by anything I've seen than the things this summer before the great museums greater than I have seen elsewhere. And then they had a, in the national museum in Athens there are these huge Kouroi, you know, these young athletes but the figures are maybe 10 feet tall. They're very stiff and very awkward and very early and they are just rooted, you see. And in a sense that they are so rooted they are and simplified particularly one that didn't have a head [would] have been lost they rise from the earth. And in this rising it's kind of an erection from the earth they are kind of a fantastic gesture of man conquering and I was very much moved by them. And then there are the later things one encounters atat Delphi and Olympia if one follows the the course. And in some of the islands they have very beautiful things that one can encounter. And you can sense in a way the the conditions in some of these places of what just in the barest way. But in the climate, in the climate and in a way in the basic humanity of the people you can sense maybe some of the early conditions which help this flower.

Studs Terkel In seeing what you saw and these, this the first time you saw in the I'm about to say in the flesh it's a very funny phrase in the flesh.

Leon Golub Yes

Studs Terkel It really is in the flesh even though it may have been of material non-human yet human because of the spirit behind it. And you felt that the people around that too were affected by it? Do you find

Leon Golub You mean the natives?

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Leon Golub No, well of course not anymore because the people are are very beautiful in their own right. And one sees in them as one sees in Afric-in Africa or one sees in in many different lands, one sees the the basic physical configuration in the person himself which later on becomes stylized as art. That is, there there's a kind of image which the artist creates which is his own image that takes to form. That is, there's the one we all we always recognise the artist creates himself in his work whether it be abstract or figurative. It's a necessary relationship between art and artist. But there's another one in which I'm really referring to when I speak of this and that is that the artists in a group as a totality over a- over a period of time during these epics create the image of the national art. That is there a certain kind of quality of man in appearance as well as in spirit that comes through in this. There's a certain type, it's a physical type. It's a moral type and it's a kind of image. And this persists, you see, there is a Greek type. And there is a Greek type which in a way exists today and in a very ideal way was transformed into art.

Studs Terkel You know, as you say this. Wow. Something occurred to me I must tell you this story because I think it's a story Leon Golub would like. When I was in Verona. About four years ago I had to go to this particular shindig in this castle for the Prix Italia deal. So the guy said to me this old man says "You got to wear, that bow tie is no good wear a regular foreign hand. He says [Italian] or something a pearl silver [Italian] pearl silver." So I go to this haberdashery shop in Verona and the place is it's on the Via Mazzini and the place is easy and gentle, no cars around there. And the kid comes in the young boy who works about 15 a very handsome boy. And the boss is sleeping and it's relaxing taking it easy. And he tries this tie I saw his face through the mirror a very handsome boy. Well that night hours passed. And after the festival we go downstairs to the banquet. But it was in the basement because they would preserve works of art there to avoid the Allied bombings. And there I stopped and I said to this big Englishman next to me. You see that picture it's by Veronese and it says "Bambino Seduto boy seated." I said you want to know something? I saw that boy this afternoon. He says what do you mean? That boy I saw and it was that figure I saw that afternoon.

Leon Golub Absolutely. Absolutely. One encounters this all the time. It's one of the great shocks which indicate that even the most highly stylized art and a realistic art can be highly stylized in this way in an extremely abstract and general generalized art that is highly stylized. But they are actually always realistic. They are literal in a kind of great sense insofar as something comes through of the time of the man and really of his people. This this comes through to us today. And one of the pleasures is in this recognition.

Studs Terkel 'Cause Leon as you're saying this is of course this is so related. It seems to me so connected with your work. So here you are trying to interpret man, you an artist, as you see him. This guy these guys this huge figure heroic I say charred, scarred, and battled with that boy in his arms of these two here again these two huge figures in battle. I can't help but think of something else. Another thing here the earlier, the early huge one we are referring to in which two men seem embattled, it's ambivalent. We don't know whether one is beating the guy or helping him.

Leon Golub Right.

Studs Terkel There's a Goya and this comes back again, in which these two guys are knocking the hell out of each other. And they are pulling each other down. And what's beyond them is beautiful. And as Alex Elliot, this art critic was saying, if only somebody can tell these two idiots, someone could tell them you are part of the same species you know. They would embrace one another instead of clobbering one another. In a sense it's almost what you're doing here.

Leon Golub In a way in a way yes. In this kind of painting in this sort of Fresco like quality and in the simplicity of it this ambivalence, this ambiguity which exists, provides a tension point and it's a tension point not merely for the observer, not merely for the artist. It's not just a game with which I'm playing or that other artists would play with but it's a very necessary condition of art that it, certain kinds of art gain a kind of power by in a way expressing simultaneously divergent things. Now the man running with his child. There is no ambiguity there. It's a different kind of thing. There it's highly centralized, the image. One knows exactly what's happening. The work is heightened by this in a way I think the one that is ambiguous it's heightened too but it's heightened in a different way. It's heightened by the conflict in our own minds as to the meaning yet we understand it. We understand both because we can understand in ourselves. The kinds of conflicts and contradictions. We view a situation we have different kinds of ideas about it. Other situations are much much more clear cut can be much more abruptly handled.

Studs Terkel As you say this Leon we come near the end of what I think has been a very very rewarding conversation for me I trust the listeners. The relationship of the artist to man. There's no doubt in this case Leon Golub's subject clearly is man. What next?

Leon Golub You know sometimes people have said to me why do I not portray women. And that and I have tried to decide why I do not portray women. I was speaking to someone about this not so long ago.

Studs Terkel I was thinking of man the species

Leon Golub

Studs Terkel Come back to Leon Golub's art which I feel is what I personally, again this is a personal comment lean to very much because you were speaking about your earlier influences. And this is to be a thread here a continuity. You said it was Orozco. So there was a mural dealing with a certain kind of aspiration of Mexican people. You mentioned Gross a biting comment on post-World War I Germany on certain values, but always seems you are commenting on man man. It's a societal. Yes. These are my obsessions. In a nicer word these are my interests. This is what I occupy myself with. Yes this is the only thing I'm interested in doing. And I'm interested in simplifying it. That in these paintings by the way they become I think in a certain sense progressively simpler. Or I would like them to ideally and although there, one cannot really characterize one group as against another group but I want to get it simple and direct. An image, kind of reduced in a certain way to a kind of basic proportionate humanity as I can reach. Again as we're talking with Leon Golub the artist trying to get a trying to recapture or create or recreate, recreate too because you say you're not afraid of of borrowing, neither would by the way neither was Shakespeare. Nor was Brecht. The point is if you're going to be a thief you be a great thief. But isn't it always, isn't isn't hasn't the works that have endured and lasted. Always been contingent upon something of another era another century one way or another. Hasn't this, haven't the great works always had this element- Well yes yes. -of continuity Yes. Sometimes the continuity is not recognized in its own time but we see it subsequently. But there is a, there is a great stream that marches through in this way. And yet when you thought of that Greek or Roman statue of that athlete tying his shoe that guy tying his shoe you see. Yours was different in the original. And you said he was had a scarred quality isn't that, he was firey fired. He was burned. He was burned. Yes. As man has been obviously through the centuries. But it's you in 1964 doing it- Well I like to- -not someone in That's right. And I think that the in that burned quality or let's say even let's say a seated figure or a running figure whatever they might be I think they and they are nude these figures they're not clothed in contemporary dress. But to my mind they have the look. Even if they have classic heads they have the look of modern man and the peculiar kinds of gestures of dramatic self-knowledge or lack of self-knowledge that modern man has. All your work your your figures your your men all your work. They seem to be in motion. Then nothing static about them and they're they're doing something. That's this particular series because they are based upon a notion of a great frieze a great mural if you will a great wall of some enormous battle. And that is the presupposition between all underneath all of this painting in a way these drawings and these paintings are all pieces fragments of one great idea one great mural, you see. But now in a certain sense they are separated and they are broken and yet each fragment expresses this- The recurring. -this discrete quality. So there there is a what some guy might call a subtext to all your works or text, a battle. There is an ever, a ceaseless conflict. In this particular group let's say when I did philosophers that group represented something else very much related to this because in the philosopher exists as a necessary part of society just like the babbler does and as we know society today as they have known society in the past. I once did a series of of figures called Sphinxes in which you get a kind of animal's body and a human head. The irreconcilability of these things in a certain sense being the theme of that. So the the different aspects of man that the serenity or the thoughtfulness of man. There's man in battle. Yes. Yes. And in a sense people people have asked me why I come to New York at this particular time and why I went to Paris at that particular time. In a way, it doesn't really matter. The environment is very much the same whether it be New York or Paris. You just jumped my next question and that's a question of. You yourself now and the places you've been to and why. When I saw you a couple of years ago you were in Paris. Why, aren't we, first of all, aren't we told, is it true that American art or the New York School has pretty much taken over the Very much so. There is a, there is a vigor and vitality [phone rings] to American art which somehow relates to the very conditions of American life and there is a kind of somewhat of a failure of nerve in European art, and this is very much reflected in conditions in both capitals. As far as I'm concerned this is in a way what I really mean doesn't really matter whether I work in Paris or New York these are timeless figures that they are neither Frenchmen or Americans they're not they're not Jews or Christians they are figures engrossed in this kind of. In a way ultimately contemporary scene which is everywhere today in the Congo too as far as that goes. And in that sense I don't belong anywhere I really feel that I don't belong in Paris and therefore one can live in Paris. I don't belong in New York and therefore I can live in New York, you see. In a certain sense if I belong to these environments. I might feel more self-conscious about that. But in a way these more or less idealized figures can therefore be expressed in the relatively indifferent physical surrounding of these cities. I do feel one quality about New York though which I was very surprised to encounter since I'd been away five years. That was the rude crude power of New York which has excited me. In that sense I am influenced by that environment and I think that New York in a way is a very good environment for these kind of figures since New York is that kind of town in a certain sense. At the same time you said just as you can't be of any school. Just as, here is man, your works, man. Timeless, any time, country, any country, man without a label. So you too are the artist without a That's right. That's right. We are at this point in in a sense we are of all countries in all times and therefore I am most willing to strip the Greeks if I can and or to in a sense express a man that is an American man or a European man or man of today. This is in a certain sense it all comes together. You speak of the rudeness the crudeness the strength of New York. You began in Chicago, didn't you? Yes. You said you were a student was it the Art Institute? That's correct. Has Chicago has this been an influence on you? Well I rather imagine it was and now people are saying in a way in what way has Chicago influenced its artists that certain kinds of imagery have emerged out of Chicago. And because there is a very there are characteristic aspects to to American art but they d-they deviate city to city. But we're not really sure whether this is due to the nature of individuals this is the natu-or whether it's due to the nature of the environment itself perhaps it's a combination of this perhaps it's a combination of of the fact that Chicago is further from Europe than New York is that many European. You see, I feel that there was a there is a continuity when European artists came after World W-during World War II and settled in New York and New York the New York school came to its greatest strength. There was a continuity set in motion between the art of Europe particularly French art of the 19th and 20th century and the art of New York which which took over and perhaps superseded the later phases of European art but continued in it. Now most of the people I knew and I myself we were never interested in the continuity of of European art to ourselves. We were more interested in relatively separated societies. Societies far in time far in space very far in a kind of spiritual and and mythical or moral way and their very distance made them close to us, you see. So there's a very great gap. If I am interested let's say at an early stage in my work if I'm interested in the Near East, that's a very great difference than some American artist who is interested in the art of let's say Miro who was very close in time and space to him. And this kind of separation has been a kind of in a certain way motivating factor in dramatizing the isolation of my art the art of others who are in this area from, in a sense, the kind of mainstream of European New York art. And insofar as doing that you see it has set up certain dangers. And so in that the artist might become separated from from tradition. But it has also opened up whole new traditions and whole new ideas that were ignored at this time including the Greek tradition, you see, which was and the figurative tradition which was cast aside largely. You feel. Is your work again you are of no school outside of Golub, no label outside of Golub. The field is it right to say there's there seems to be a sense a return on the part of imaginative artists to the figure. Well, there have been many returns to the figure and the figure had never really left us. That has left us in certain forms it has returned in other forms. I feel that if you if you don't if you judge art more than by a few years you judge it by decades or let's say a half-century then then you look and you pick out maybe half a dozen men who are maybe very great artists in a particular epic or maybe 15 men and then you separate them you'll find that you will not have merely abstract artists nor will you have perhaps merely figurative art. You will have a group of people you see the figure has always been with us. So that it's only insofar as art becomes myopic and intends to view itself internally a small, a group of people set up certain categories and therefore they can state that this is so and this is so and this is so. But in reality, figuration exists with this. But it exists in a I think in in in centred and very strong individuals. And there are a very particular kind like I mentioned Beckmann who is now being shown you see in Boston, will be shown in New York and then in Chicago. And he comes ba-he comes to us again as a very strong figure from this period. Certain individuals you feel too who have represented because of their own particular genius have unable to- That's right. -maintain those kind- There are people like Jacques Marin Dubuffet. See there are there are figurative artists have been working all along. One simply cannot say the figuration has disappeared and then comes back. When it does come when it does disappear and come back in that way it tends to come back in a relatively trivial manner as a kind of minor manifestation. But when it exists in a in an isolated and and significant way then it continues to exist. Isn't it true, didn't Picasso say there's no such thing as an abstract pure abstraction? I think it's something in that vein. Oh yes yes. One could also say of course there is no such thing as a pure you know figurative thing, you know, that all art joins all art at a certain point. You mentioned the Greeks earlier, well first Paris because the, I say Greeks because you recently. After our conversation that I left in Paris you you spent some time in Greece. A cold conversation. Yeah. Oh, it was cold. We should point out it was very cold in Paris in his studio. And some of his work was in progress a great deal of it on the floor and you were pointing- I think it was from the gallery where it's all put on the walls. [laughs] It's on the walls. Why Paris? Why did you? Was it was there a romantic reason for People say to me why did you go to Paris? I usually have the sort of tricky answer that I have to live somewhere and Paris is as good a place to live as any and better than most. But I went to Paris because in a way I didn't really feel like going to New York insofar as New York was. It it seemed to me to be the center of Abstract Expressionism. I wasn't particularly interested in in fighting it or accommodating to it that is I, it didn't really concern me at that point because it didn't concern my art. And Paris it appeared to me I might have been wrong in this way, I don't know. Paris appeared to me maybe because of its distance to be much more anonymous much more open open to all kinds of things. Not that it's really better. But in a way one could hide oneself better. I didn't wish to hide but one could if one wished to. There was this kind of quality of of Paris art life. It had always invited artists in this sense. Another thing was that Paris really was much more exotic. I could always go to New York. But at this point I had the means to go to Paris. And then there was the very practical reasons that I wished to extern a lot, not extern, internationalize I mean to say internationalize my reputation. That meant I would I would be interested in exhibiting in Europe and seeing what the European reaction to my work would be. If you're in Europe that's much easier. Reflections on Paris of France. Now that you've left it. We think of Paris again. Romantically historically too the city of lights. Where the artists were there in flower a certain turn of the century latter part of the last, this one. Paris today as far as the artist goes in art. Well, now there are many things one could say about Paris in this way Paris is in crisis at this point. This has been going on for a long time. It was assumed by Parisian artists and Parisian dealers that the kind of success that Paris had as an art center. Let's say running from 1800 one generation after another through the generation of Picasso and Braque. That this would be we would naturally descend fall upon the shoulders of the people who were a younger generation or second or third younger generation than this. As it happened this was not so that the leadership of the art world was wrested from from France after World War II by a series of circumstances most of which had to do with what I feel was in a way the breaking down of of of the breaking down of a sense of security in Europe and in a sense and the kind of root power that the Americans felt and which were able to express in their work. Now when this happened and the Americans became very chauvinistic and American art publications would claim that American art was the greatest in the world. This had of course an influence upon the American collectors who stopped buying Parisian art to a certain extent. This leads to all sorts of complications that we all can recognize in the life of that artistic community. Many art many Parisian artists were very genuinely and very closely identified with American art and did art similar to it. And it, they had a certain success in this direction. Then pop art came along. And this is further further demoralize the French situation because as I've learned recently that there is a great deal of pop art since we've left in August there is a great deal of pop art being exhibited and shown kind of a kind of derivative nature in Paris. So that New York still maintains this kind of thrust and although I have my feelings that the final word has not necessarily been said because Paris still is a kind of open door to people who come from all over the world they come. They may come from Egypt, they may come from Africa, they may come from Romania, Turkey wherever they come from. They come because they are escaping the rather impoverished circumstances of art in their own country. And they are looking for a way and Paris has sometimes provided the avenue and it wouldn't take many people to. All you need are two or three sometimes to make another thrust so that the word you think may not be finished yet. Even though the major thrust you say is New York it's quite possible several chapters yet to be written. You see. Oh well, it's an ever-continuing thing. I myself am not concerned at too many of these levels because my work has gone its own direction and but I'm a most interested observer. Yeah I know, observer. But also you're following your own. A Noel Coward phrase your secret heart. No, it's your own throughout. Yet there has been this theme hasn't there? I say I've repeated myself yet I know this theme throughout of yourself and the man and the world. Then never, you could never describe yourself as alienated at all can you? Well I- Maybe detached. Well, actually I could describe myself as alienated. Because I think that at its fundamental point my work is alienated and separated and that there that there are uglinesses and there is violence in it. And sometimes there's been eccentricity in it. But in a certain way. In a way that I wish to make these work. And insofar as it's alienation it's a kind of the human alienation it's a potentially recoverable alienation. And so I think that in a way my work is really a dialogue between that. That is between the strength and the erosion between the alienation and the, in a sense the recovery of this. And then this this kind of tension I think gives a great deal to the work. I wasn't, when I said alienation I wasn't referring to the fact that you would show a Pollyanna work or like, no I meant the fact you are your figures are not dehuman, if aything they are more human. The the the the suffering implicit here in them are the charred, the burned, the the eroded quality if anything makes them through suffering or perhaps even more human. I think so. I think so because sometimes we here in Chicago and I often in particular have been described as the monster school you see and they say that you make monsters you know. Well in a certain way this is partially true but in a way they would be they're not monsters. However, in a real sense because if they are monsters when they cannot be approached you see, when there is a great distance when the human when the human point has been passed in a sense when something enters insanity past this point of the threshold. Then it's a monster. Insofar as these figures are eroded and have passions and they fall, they crumble or they succeed. They're not monsters you see. I never could quite accept that description used. I don't under-I don't know the word monster school. I never could quite, unless, of course, monstrous qualities in man. But if anything this, these seem to be very very human very human. Well, I think so. I think this, in the the monster appellation in a way is a kind of compliment because it meant that there was a certain shock when first encountering this and therefore people have a tendency when when this appears [phone ringing] you see and it's a compliment too because the work is not decorative it's not pretty. One never calls a monster a pretty penny is never described in that sense. So that's a kind of compliment but it's also misconstrued in that way. But monstrous true both in the sense that man that the brutality of man is part of his humanity too. That's right. This very thing that his hugeness and bloodiness and batteredness. Grossness. And grossness is part of his humanity too. But I meant, not machine monster. Maybe that's why. Not robot like monster. Yes yes yes yes. Flesh and blood monster. That's right. That's right. Leon Golub back to. So we're now in a way you went to Paris. Now you mention Grecian art and influences on you a few times you went to Greece recently. Yes. It's fabulous. Very nice. We traveled through many of the islands. We took the classical. We took the classical tour, you know, through places like Delphi and Olympia where I saw these very great sculptures which moved me very much. In fact I have I don't think I've ever been more moved by anything I've seen than the things this summer before the great museums greater than I have seen elsewhere. And then they had a, in the national museum in Athens there are these huge Kouroi, you know, these young athletes but the figures are maybe 10 feet tall. They're very stiff and very awkward and very early and they are just rooted, you see. And in a sense that they are so rooted they are and simplified particularly one that didn't have a head [would] have been lost they rise from the earth. And in this rising it's kind of an erection from the earth they are kind of a fantastic gesture of man conquering and I was very much moved by them. And then there are the later things one encounters atat Delphi and Olympia if one follows the the course. And in some of the islands they have very beautiful things that one can encounter. And you can sense in a way the the conditions in some of these places of what just in the barest way. But in the climate, in the climate and in a way in the basic humanity of the people you can sense maybe some of the early conditions which help this flower. In seeing what you saw and these, this the first time you saw in the I'm about to say in the flesh it's a very funny phrase in the flesh. Yes It really is in the flesh even though it may have been of material non-human yet human because of the spirit behind it. And you felt that the people around that too were affected by it? Do you find this- You mean the natives? Yeah. No, well of course not anymore because the people are are very beautiful in their own right. And one sees in them as one sees in Afric-in Africa or one sees in in many different lands, one sees the the basic physical configuration in the person himself which later on becomes stylized as art. That is, there there's a kind of image which the artist creates which is his own image that takes to form. That is, there's the one we all we always recognise the artist creates himself in his work whether it be abstract or figurative. It's a necessary relationship between art and artist. But there's another one in which I'm really referring to when I speak of this and that is that the artists in a group as a totality over a- over a period of time during these epics create the image of the national art. That is there a certain kind of quality of man in appearance as well as in spirit that comes through in this. There's a certain type, it's a physical type. It's a moral type and it's a kind of image. And this persists, you see, there is a Greek type. And there is a Greek type which in a way exists today and in a very ideal way was transformed into art. You know, as you say this. Wow. Something occurred to me I must tell you this story because I think it's a story Leon Golub would like. When I was in Verona. About four years ago I had to go to this particular shindig in this castle for the Prix Italia deal. So the guy said to me this old man says "You got to wear, that bow tie is no good wear a regular foreign hand. He says [Italian] or something a pearl silver [Italian] pearl silver." So I go to this haberdashery shop in Verona and the place is it's on the Via Mazzini and the place is easy and gentle, no cars around there. And the kid comes in the young boy who works about 15 a very handsome boy. And the boss is sleeping and it's relaxing taking it easy. And he tries this tie I saw his face through the mirror a very handsome boy. Well that night hours passed. And after the festival we go downstairs to the banquet. But it was in the basement because they would preserve works of art there to avoid the Allied bombings. And there I stopped and I said to this big Englishman next to me. You see that picture it's by Veronese and it says "Bambino Seduto boy seated." I said you want to know something? I saw that boy this afternoon. He says what do you mean? That boy I saw and it was that figure I saw that afternoon. Absolutely. Absolutely. One encounters this all the time. It's one of the great shocks which indicate that even the most highly stylized art and a realistic art can be highly stylized in this way in an extremely abstract and general generalized art that is highly stylized. But they are actually always realistic. They are literal in a kind of great sense insofar as something comes through of the time of the man and really of his people. This this comes through to us today. And one of the pleasures is in this recognition. 'Cause Leon as you're saying this is of course this is so related. It seems to me so connected with your work. So here you are trying to interpret man, you an artist, as you see him. This guy these guys this huge figure heroic I say charred, scarred, and battled with that boy in his arms of these two here again these two huge figures in battle. I can't help but think of something else. Another thing here the earlier, the early huge one we are referring to in which two men seem embattled, it's ambivalent. We don't know whether one is beating the guy or helping him. Right. There's a Goya and this comes back again, in which these two guys are knocking the hell out of each other. And they are pulling each other down. And what's beyond them is beautiful. And as Alex Elliot, this art critic was saying, if only somebody can tell these two idiots, someone could tell them you are part of the same species you know. They would embrace one another instead of clobbering one another. In a sense it's almost what you're doing here. In a way in a way yes. In this kind of painting in this sort of Fresco like quality and in the simplicity of it this ambivalence, this ambiguity which exists, provides a tension point and it's a tension point not merely for the observer, not merely for the artist. It's not just a game with which I'm playing or that other artists would play with but it's a very necessary condition of art that it, certain kinds of art gain a kind of power by in a way expressing simultaneously divergent things. Now the man running with his child. There is no ambiguity there. It's a different kind of thing. There it's highly centralized, the image. One knows exactly what's happening. The work is heightened by this in a way I think the one that is ambiguous it's heightened too but it's heightened in a different way. It's heightened by the conflict in our own minds as to the meaning yet we understand it. We understand both because we can understand in ourselves. The kinds of conflicts and contradictions. We view a situation we have different kinds of ideas about it. Other situations are much much more clear cut can be much more abruptly handled. As you say this Leon we come near the end of what I think has been a very very rewarding conversation for me I trust the listeners. The relationship of the artist to man. There's no doubt in this case Leon Golub's subject clearly is man. What next? You know sometimes people have said to me why do I not portray women. And that and I have tried to decide why I do not portray women. I was speaking to someone about this not so long ago. I was thinking of man the species but I Go

Leon Golub You're just saying man-

Studs Terkel Go ahead with man the gender.

Leon Golub You're just saying man makes it, made it my mind somehow appear more specific and in a way this is maybe somewhat facile when one puts it this way but there are there are theories and books and many illustrations past that deal with the notion of the Great Mother. The generative figure something that continue. As a current, as a harmony, as a vitalistic principle. Sometimes she's shown as a awful figure. Sometimes she's shown as a harmonious but it always represents this this this quality of of persistence and subsistence and fertility. Now I am not particularly interested in that that notion, you see. It's one of the great notions of history in a certain sense in the abstract. But I am interested in a somewhat different notion. Not so much of persistence in that way but in the persistence of activity informing in manifesting. These are somewhat more male characteristics if I would dare say so. That man uses his hands, he forms around him. He changes it. He runs, he shifts. He manipulates. And in this kind of notion you see of of these figures that are running but in a certain sense they could be conceived of as builders they could be. They are doing something and this is an activity that I am interested in this kind of activity represented as conduct as principle and as motion. Its force, its struggle.

Studs Terkel Conduct this is man's activity as conduct, principle, motion, force, struggle. The condition. Leon Golub at the Allan Frumkin Gallery. The exhibition until November 30th. And if it's over by the time you get here there are Golub works to be seen at 620 North Michigan. W- perhaps one last question. Where to where to Golub next?

Leon Golub I'll be interested to find out myself but I think it will continue more or less in this this kind of way. This has been the basis of my art. I would be very shocked were it to go differently. I don't think it will. And all the art follows paintings follow paintings in a sense ideas follow ideas. There is a continuity which most artists perhaps all artists have.

Studs Terkel Thus the fusion of past and present and in a sense intimations of the future. This is art. This is Leon Golub too. Thank you very much.

Leon Golub Thank you.