Leon Golub first came to prominence during the 1950s as a part of the Monster Roster, whose work depicted monsters and human/animal hybrids. At this time he realized that contrary to the tenets of the prevailing Abstract Expressionists, representation of actions and events was crucial in experiencing the modern world. Leon Golub and Nancy Spero were leading figures in activist artists' groups such as Artists and Writers Protest Against the War in Vietnam (1960s-70s) and Artists Call Against American Intervention in Latin America (1980s).
Leon Golub's work is about power and the recurring misuse of power through violence as an expression of organized, often state-sponsored, oppression and brutality. A fundamental tension is at the heart of his paintings, a tension between the figures and the canvas as well as between the role of the artist and the wider background of society. Golub described his work as "a definition of how power is demonstrated through the body and in human actions, and in our time, how political and industrial powers are shown...“
In his last years Leon Golub broke with structured, confrontational images, but his language still remained sardonic. Dogs, lions, and cyborgs are now representing elements of aggression, the eerie, and irrational.