Nancy Spero, ‘THEY WILL TORTURE YOU MY FRIEND (in collaboration with Leon Golub) from Conspiracy: The Artist as Witness’, 1971, Alpha 137 Gallery

"They Will Torture You My Friend" by renowned feminist artist Nancy Spero in collaboration with figurist master Leon Golub 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 - one of the most influential and desirable eras. 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. 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."

Signature: Signed; in pencil by both Leon Golub and Nancy Spero. Numbered from the edition of 150. Stamped on reverse: COPYRIGHT © 1971 BY LEON GOLUB AND NANCY SPERO

Publisher: Printed at Chiron Press, New York, Published by David Godine, Center for Constitutional Rights

This silkscreen has superb provenance: it comes directly from the original Portfolio: "Conspiracy The Artist as Witness", 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.

About Nancy Spero

A leading figure in the feminist art movement of the 1960s, Nancy Spero explored female sexuality, suffering, and heroism, as well as the horrors of war, in gouache and ink works on paper. Spero drew from ancient mythologies and iconographies to produce her burlesque cast of pagan goddesses, Celtic fertility figures, and Amazon warriors, which she pulled from books on ancient art before manipulating and incorporating them into her own drawings and collages. Her well-known 1966–70 “War” series, produced during the Vietnam years, explored the atrocities of war, a subject Spero revisited in her later career with frieze-like drawings installed around the walls of galleries, depicting masses of screaming figures and helicopters overhead dropping human-shaped bombs. Her work Cri de Coeur (2005) portrays mourning women from ancient Egypt. “I am thinking about the women’s condition, showing victimage or celebratory sexuality in an exaggerated way,” she once said. Spero was married to the late artist Leon Golub, and was a founding member of the feminist A.I.R. gallery, started in 1972.

American, 1926-2009, Cleveland, Ohio, based in New York, New York