George Segal

Biography of George Segal

The hugely influential artist, George Segal, was at the heart of the Happenings scene of the late 1950s and was the first artist to conceive of the idea of using plaster molds in his practice. Once a farmer like his father, Segal first started creating sculptures from the chicken wire and plaster that were then available to him on his farm. In 1960 he began using the material to make casts, using family members or friends who happened to be around as models. He then experimented with turning the empty shell molds into actual sculptures—the results were astonishing.

 

Depicting his local environment while invoking scenes that resonate universally, Segal captured the lives of everyday people participating in their daily activities. Whilst the sculptures have many connections with the Pop Art movement, sharing, for instance, the same commercial, repetitive flatness, they can be distinguished from this movement by the ghostly expressions apparent on their faces. Segal's technique involved the wrapping of the model in plaster-soaked cheesecloth, creating a rough texture and reducing the original detail, which only further enhanced the feeling of haunted alienation.

 

Born to Jewish migrants in 1924 in New York, Segal and his parents were to eventually settle in New Jersey. Segal won the Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award in 1992 and the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association in 1998. A major traveling retrospective was held in the late 70s, and amongst many other museums, was shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. After his death in 2000, The George and Helen Segal Foundation established the George Segal Gallery in Montclair State University, New Jersey in 2006. 

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