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Artists George Segal
George Segal Photo

George Segal

American Sculptor, Photographer, and Painter

Movement: Pop Art

Born: November 26, 1924 - New York, New York

Died: June 9, 2000 - South Brunswick, New Jersey

George Segal Timeline

Quotes

"Maybe that's why I'm a sculptor, primarily, because I don't get criticized for making a real thing that exists in real space."
George Segal
"All of us start working young, early, because art is magical for us, and we're enchanted by it."
George Segal
"I pay an awful lot of attention to carving out the shape of the empty space in all my pieces. I pay a lot of attention to composing, stacking the pieces, putting the stuff together. And my solutions vary, depending on what I'm trying to say, what I'm talking about. It's literal Cubism for me. I have to be able to walk around a piece, into a piece, and encounter it from any shift of my eyes. I can walk into a group of figures standing around, and any place I click my eyes to look, I've got to be impressed with the shape of the empty space that's going on between figures, and how does it strike me. It has to strike me, it has to hit me. And it's the only way that I know to resolve a piece."
George Segal
"I get intense pleasure from accomplishing, making visible, making something visible and tangible something that starts out as an idea."
George Segal

"For me to decide to make a cast of a human being broke all the rules of fine art."

George Segal Signature

Synopsis

Using orthopedic bandages dipped in plaster, New York sculptor George Segal constructed some of the most haunting and memorable figurative art of the 20th century. Life-sized models based on his body and those of friends, family, and neighbors are seated at lunch counters, poised on street corners, or waiting in train stations. Like actors in a play that never starts, these figures inhabit three-dimensional environments that evoke everyday spaces. One can walk around them (which makes the effect all the more eerie) but they are lost in their own universe. It is impossible to warn them that the moment they are waiting for will never arrive. The most existential of the Pop artists, Segal gives us the opportunity to step outside the fast-paced consumer world in order to get a better look at how we function within it.

Key Ideas

Designed to treat broken bones, the bandage is not just a medium but a metaphor. Segal's plaster cast sculptures, literally the shells of people, can be read as poignant reminders of the human toll taken by World War II. Segal was from a family of Polish Jews, most of whom perished in the Holocaust. Despite this dimension of personal significance, the strength of his work lies in the universal significance of human gesture and expression, evident in Segal's public monuments to the Gay Rights movement and The Great Depression, as well as the Holocaust.
While plaster casts of antique busts had existed for hundreds of years, Segal's practice of dipping bandages into plaster and applying them to a live model was quite new. As he put it, "For me to decide to make a cast of a human being broke all the rules of fine art."
An avid museumgoer and film buff, Segal was a cultural sponge. The sources that informed him range from the mysterious wrapped bodies of mummies at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the suspenseful film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s (such as Citizen Kane).
Segal is the most existential of the Pop artists. While other Pop artists (Warhol, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg and others) focused on logos, labels, advertisements, and other mass-produced products, Segal engages directly with the psychology of the consumer. His figures provide a window onto the human condition in a way that sets them apart from other Pop art inventions.

Biography

George Segal Photo

Childhood and Education

George Segal was born in New York City on November 26, 1924 to Jewish immigrants from Poland. His father, who had come to America in 1922, would lose all his brothers at the hands of the Nazis. Segal's parents ran a kosher butcher shop in the Bronx, working long hours, and dreamt of a more prosperous life for their son.

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George Segal Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
George Segal
Interactive chart with George Segal's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

John ChamberlainJohn Chamberlain
Jim DineJim Dine
Kurt SchwittersKurt Schwitters
Tony SmithTony Smith
Edward HopperEdward Hopper

Personal Contacts

Sidney JanisSidney Janis
Meyer SchapiroMeyer Schapiro
Robert RauschenbergRobert Rauschenberg
Jasper JohnsJasper Johns

Movements

Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism

Influences on Artist
George Segal
George Segal
Years Worked: 1949 - 2000
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Robert GoberRobert Gober
Duane HansonDuane Hanson
Kiki SmithKiki Smith

Personal Contacts

Movements

Pop ArtPop Art
Installation ArtInstallation Art

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Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Ruth Epstein

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Ruth Epstein
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