Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Theatres of war, torture, and disappearance: Leon Golub's “Mercenaries, Interrogations”, and “White Squads”, 1976–1987
by Travis, Amber Elizabeth, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2009, 308; 3355745
Abstract (Summary)

Between 1976 and 1987 Leon Golub (1922-2004) painted twenty-two works known as the Mercenary, Interrogation and White Squad Series. Critics drew connections between military intervention in Southern Africa and Latin America and the violence represented in Golub’s three series of paintings. My dissertation investigates Golub’s mechanism of engagement: that is, what in the Mercenary, Interrogation and White Squad Series invited viewers to locate Golub’s representations amongst reports of U.S. sponsored violence. Theories and methods advanced by Bertolt Brecht help to explain how spectators located the works within a geopolitical context. I argue that Golub employed Brechtian devices to invite his viewers to collaborate in the formation of meaning. By politically and visually contextualizing Golub’s Mercenary, Interrogation and White Squad Series within the history of U.S. imperialism and the genre of representations of war and torture, the viewer can better understand the historical circumstances of the subjects of his representation.

This dissertation reviews and assesses the critical currents and historical accounts necessary for an understanding of the reception of Golub’s work from the late 1970s to the late 1980s. The procedures and methods used include concepts of theatre and performance and the theoretical contributions of Michael Fried to the understanding of spectatorship. The applicability of Bertolt Brecht’s insights is weighed against the ethical conundrums of representing suffering as posited by Theodor Adorno, The production of the Mercenaries begins amidst the political climate of the Carter Administration in the late 1970s. With the advent of the Reagan Regime, Golub’s work became darker with his turn to scenes of torture with the Interrogations and White Squads. In the mid 1980s Golub began to incorporate Classical elements. By retracing the historical context of U.S. foreign relations with an understanding of Brechtian theatre, the spectator can more fully understand the complexity of Golub’s Mercenary, Interrogation, and White Squads.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Eisenman, Stephen F.
Commitee: Feldman, Hannah J., Kiaer, Christina H.
School: Northwestern University
Department: Art History
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 70/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art history
Keywords: Art, Golub, Leon, Mercenary, Interrogation and White Squad series, Politics, Theatre, Torture, Twentieth century, Violence
Publication Number: 3355745
ISBN: 9781109150629
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