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Vietnam II belongs to a series of three massive paintings that Golub made in protest against the Vietnam War. He had opposed the war since the 1960s but avoided representing it directly in his work, preferring to explore the themes of masculinity and power in a more universal manner. He changed his mind after the 1972 presidential election, in which the anti-war Senator George McGovern was heavily defeated by Richard Nixon. Golub used news photographs and his own experience as a veteran of the Second World War in order to build an allegory of the disconnection generated by conflict. Vietnam II sets American soldiers and their armoured car across a telling central gulf from Vietnamese civilian victims. The contrast between ruthless organisation and panicked disintegration find an echo in the apparently fragmentary nature of the work itself.

July 2008