George Segal

BROADWAY 1602 is pleased to announce our new engagement with the estate of George Segal.

George Segal (1924–2000), a native New Yorker of the Pop Art era, is undeniably one of the most masterful sculptors of the twentieth century. The intimacy and immediacy of his life cast figures psychologically absorbed in everyday environments has captured and moved generations.

Represented by the Sidney Janis Gallery for over thirty years Segal’s signature plaster figures are now in museum collections throughout the world and his bronzes have been commissioned for public spaces like The Commuters (1980) in the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the commemorative bronze Gay Liberation (1980) in Sheridan Square in New York City.

George Segal has received many museum exhibitions including his retrospectives at the Whitney Museum and the Jewish Museum in New York City and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in Washington, D.C.. Recently, pivotal Segal works are on show again in the new collection presentations, e.g. in the in the new Whitney Museum building and the Perez Museum in Miami.

A new momentum has come for the recognition of George Segal in a time lacking and longing for an encounter with the existential and communicative dimension of the human figure in real life materialization, confrontation and immediacy. Segal’s figures are solemn place holders of this dimension on the verge of loss. Their re-appearance creates a powerful new statement in the tissue of the contemporary.

In Spring 2015 we present a group of five works representing Segal’s innovative decades-spanning practice from the early 1962 pastel drawing (Untitled (Nude with Purple Hair); to his 1970 body plaster Fragments: Hand at Side and Dangling Arm;

his 1986 Neo-Cubist assemblage Still Life with Shoe and Rooster (Braque); and his 1995 spectacular installation “Bus Station” from the “Darkness and Light” series portraying street scenes and decay of Downtown New York City.


Pastel Drawings, 1962

In the beginning of his career in the early 1960s, George Segal created an intriguing group of pastel drawings portraying female figures posed in a set of interior props and intimate domestic settings with almost cinematically closed-in image frames. Segal expressed in these works as much his intense connection to the aesthetic sensitivity and thinking of Matisse, as he was contradicting the dominant contemporary fashion of flatness in painting at the time. The pastels happened in contact, tension and dialectic to his main desire, the expansion into sculpture and concrete space. The deadpan, rough and dynamic treatment of the bodies in these works speaks loudly the language of his soon to follow plaster figures in trompe l’oeil, mundane environments.

Fragments, Plaster Reliefs 1970

In 1969 George Segal began creating partial body casts out of plaster titled “Fragments” presented as wall reliefs. Works from this series like the Fragments “Dangling Arm” and “Hand at Side” parallel Bruce Nauman’s late 1960s interest, – however more directly indebted to Surrealist assemblage and mind play -, in the resin body fragment as in “De la main à la bouche” (1967).

The outstanding character and conceptual advance of Segal’s white Fragments is their dramatically reduced minimalism, their suggestive and disruptive incompleteness, and the raw concrete surfaces revealing their making out of the plaster-soaked bandages.

Neo-Cubist Reliefs, 1986

With “Still Life with Shoe and Rooster (Braque)” (1986), George Segal created a dense landscape of art-historical index and allegory, both bold and enigmatic in execution and style. Like for the other neo-cubist reliefs of the time, Segal fractured mundane objects from his own studio for the formal structure of the assemblage while he attached on its surface riddles of personal and art historical coding. The plastic rooster and the red “R” letter above seem not only to refer to his own exceptional if not eccentric choice of a chicken farm life which also was the setting of his studio, but one inevitably also thinks of “R” for Rauschenberg, and the rooster a hint to his peer’s signature ‘Combine’ “Odalisk” from 1955-8 with the stuffed Rooster provocatively crowning the sculpture.

By the mid 1980s Segal seemed to have been reflecting through the medium of these exceptional assemblages his own history from the Pop Art decade to his finally chosen sphere of production, the rural studio in relation to the metropolitan beginnings in New York City, and at the same time set in the wider trajectory to the beginnings of modernism itself. “Still Life with Shoe and Rooster (Braque)” is a homage to artist personalities close to Segal’s own art philosophy and life, as much as it is a self reflection and positioning, a cesura at the time about his work and production.

Bus Station, DARKNESS AND LIGHT series, 1995

In 1995 George Segal presented the exhibition “DARKNESS AND LIGHT. New Photo-Sculpture” at Sidney Janis Gallery. After the series of neo-cubist reliefs of the mid 80s, composed of elements from his rural studio, Segal went in the mid 90s from the pastoral setting of his reclusive production site returning to the city, chronicling the decaying and derelict urban tissue of Downtown Manhattan, – East Village and Chinatown.

“Bus Station” (1995) is part of this series of dark alleys and storefronts. Predated by the black figures and street scenes in “Woman Walking Under Scaffold” (1989) and “Graffiti Wall” (1990), these new works – centrally composed with large photographic elements  – are titled “Dumpster” (1994), “Liquor Store”, “Chinatown” and “Parking Garage”, all created in 1994.