George Segal describes his artwork by saying, the inner state of the mind connects to the outside surface of the sculpture (Tuchman, 8). George Segal is known for his representation of life-sized white plaster human figures placed in everyday situations (Tuchman, 5). An originator of Pop Art, George Segal has been associated with many as an Abstract Expressionist. Throughout his lifetime, George s work has been criticized because of his abstract style.
The new era of Pop Art can be attributed to the hard, dedicated work of George Segal. Through the hard times of the Second World War to Vietnam to the 1990 s, George Segal has been dazzling and wowing art enthusiasts worldwide. George Segal was born in 1924 in the Bronx. For most of his childhood he lived and breathed New York.
While in the Big Apple George realized his love for art when he was still in grammar school. As years passed, George was ready to begin secondary education. He was intrigued by the idea of attending a private school, so he would be able to study art. After completing all the entrance exams, George enrolled into Stuyvesant High School, which has produced several Nobel Prize winners and today is still an elite science academy (Tuchman, 84).
In 1940, when he was a senior at Stuyvesant, his family settled on a chicken farm in South Brunswick, New Jersey (Friedman, 53). As a result of the move, George had to stop attending Stuyvesant. For the next two years Segal helped his parents out on the farm while studying art, architecture and art education at Cooper Union, New York (Henkes, 32). From 1942 to 1946 he studied philosophy and literature part-time at Rutgers University, New Brunswick (Henkes, 33).
In 1947-48 he studied at the Pratt Institute of Design, Brooklyn, and in 1948-49 at New York University, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Art Education (Henkes, 37). His experience at New York University would have the most impact on his future At NYU, Segal met fellow students Larry Rivers and Alfred Leslie (Seitz, 57). They, including Segal, studied with non-representational ists, the sculptor-architect Tony Smith and painter William Baziotes (Seitz, 59). The impact that these two men had on George, took his artistic abilities to new levels and direction. George was now being influenced by outside ideas and classic art. With this, he started sculpting and developing new ways of expressing himself in his work.
Continuing with his newfound ideas, he began experimenting with plaster, burlap and wire mesh (Hunter, 17). In 1958, as a way to have financial stability, while he was sculpting, George taught commercial art at Piscataway High School (Hunter, 12). Within two years his art was exhibited in Richard Bellamy's new Green Gallery in New York (Friedman, 93). In 1961 he taught painting at New Brunswick. While at New Brunswick, he discovered the technique of using medical bandages as material for his art and used himself as a model for Man at a Table, his first plaster cast using bandaging (Tuchman, 112). From 1961 to 1964 he taught at Roosevelt Junior High School (Seitz, 97).
As a teacher at Roosevelt he continued to mesmerize people. While under the supervision of Tony Smith, George produced many pieces of work that evolved around large, stocky bodies (Tuchman, 120). Initially, he did not purposely lean towards this; rather, it was just coincidental that he was choosing people of heavy set (Tuchman, 123). However, these sculptures have contributed largely to the character of Segal s art.
Originally, Segal was not interested in detail, so the choice of large framed people did not hurt him, with slender people he would have to use detail because these bodies where more difficult (Tuchman, 126). In 1963 he received a Master of Fine Arts from Rutgers University and traveled in Europe (Seitz, 108). In the same year he exhibited at the Galerie Ileana Sonnabend in France (Seitz, 114). In 1968 he had his first one-man museum exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (Seitz, 119). In 1968 and 1969 he taught visual art and sculpture at Princeton University (Adams, 99). At this time his work leaned towards the portrayal of autobiographical scenes (Adams, 103).
In 1970 he was awarded the degree of honorary doctor at Rutgers University (Tuchman, 133). In 1971-72 he had a retrospective at Zurich, Munich, Cologne, Rotterdam, Paris, Leverkusen and T bingen (Tuchman, 138). In 1972 he was Associate Guest Professor at City University in New York (Henkes, 88). One of his most incredible pieces of work was done in 1975, where he worked on a sculpture for the Franklin D. Roosevelt monument in Washington (Henkes, 96). This piece of work has been Segal s most publicized and seemingly his best.
In 1976, he created his first bronze sculptures for public spaces. Two years later, his work was the subject of a major retrospective presented at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (Mason, 2). In 1979 he published a pamphlet on plaster cast technique in Rome, which was brought out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York (Mason, 2). In 1982, an exhibition of his work was held at the Se ibu Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo (Hunter, 11). In 1983 he designed a cover for Time magazine and he also was the winner of a competition for the design of a Holocaust memorial (Hunter, 17). In 1985 and 1987, the Esperanza Gallery in Montreal presented solo shows of his work (Hunter, 13).
In 1992, he was back in town again for the Pop Art show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Hunter, 18). Segal's work has been represented in leading American, European and Canadian museums for the past 40 years. Because of his interest in the everyday world, Segal was considered to be a founder of the Pop Art movement in the early sixties, but his individual approach to his sculpting quickly set him apart from his friends and colleagues (Tuchman, 4). The subject matter that Segal deals with is the human body, its privacy and weakness, which he expresses with a strong sympathy (Tuchman, 2). George Segal was mainly a Pop Artist and a few skeptics might consider him to be an Abstract Expressionist. Pop Art brought art back to the truth of everyday life and to popular culture (hence: pop).
During this time of popular culture many ordinary people developed most of their visual pleasure from television, magazines, or comics (Mason, 3). In America, Pop Art was linked to the wealth and prosperity of the post World War II era, and artists of the movement responded to the nation's new consumer society (Tuchman, 5). Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg were some of the first Pop artists in America, and used popular imagery such as the American flag and beer cans in their paintings, prints and collages (Hunter, 4). The most famous of the Pop artists, Andy Warhol, recreated photographic paintings of people or everyday objects (Hunter, 5). As for Abstract Expressionalists, these artists valued, above all, individuality and creativity as they drew their inspiration from all directions (Adams, 3). Piet Mondrian and Max Ernst are two of the most well known Abstract Expressionalists.
These artists formed what is known, as The New York School seeing that this is where they were from and they were innovators of the abstract style. The American culture has been feeding off of this artistic style for nearly 30 years, and Pop Art not only influenced the work of later artists but also had an impact on the American way of life. The Diner, which was completed from 1964-1966, shows a waitress filling a cup of coffee from a metal pot while a single customer sits on a stool at the counter with his hand placed on his cheek. The interpretation of this real life sculpture is based solely on the everyday life of Americans.
George Segal basically has no meaning to his works except for beauty and tranquility. The style on the other hand is the basis of all Segal s art. He incorporates many different ideas and feelings into all his sculptures. As with all his works, a human body is the main idea behind everything. In The Diner, the deep red back round sets the tone for the whole piece, although the black and white predominates. The light that reflects off of the props interrupts the dramatic shades; therefore an important role of the environment is lost.
The space is occupied by the two people, which are fairly close together. This enables the viewer to fixate on the task at hand. Emphasis is put on the red color being displayed so simply in the back round. Since the scene is three-dimensional it has a real texture that can be touched. The sculpture is reminiscent of Pop Art because it has that true to life feel, and a sense of friendly well-being. George Segal s intention of this composition was to be able to create a prop orientated scene while the warmth of two people is still intact.
Through the dedicated and hard work of George Segal, the new Pop Art era has been changed forever. His work occupies a unique position between Pop Art and traditional figure sculpture. Segal s sculptures might be complex, however, they are lively and humane. George Segal emphasizes his art by saying, I am not interested in dictating a response from the viewer, but in provoking thought, disturbing complacency, and providing an open-ended experience (Mason, 1). As in all the art Segal has masterfully completed, one can discover the magic of daily life (Tuchman, 3).