George Segal: Themes and Variations

Marking the centennial of George Segal’s birth in 1924, the Zimmerli Art Museum invites visitors to experience more than 60 works — some familiar, others rarely seen — in George Segal: Themes and Variations. The exhibition explores significant themes that Segal (1924–2000) returned to throughout his career — figural groups, single figures, the nude, portraits, and still life — and shows the artist as a student of art history and an avid museum-goer.

With art drawn from the museum’s collection, as well as loans from the George and Helen Segal Foundation and private collections, the show offers a unique opportunity to view Segal’s less-well-known paintings, pastel and charcoal drawings, prints, and photographs alongside his renowned life-sized plaster cast figures. In addition, photographs by Arnold Newman and Donald Lokuta capture the artist at work in his converted chicken coop studio, posing within his sculptural groups, working with models, and documenting his own carefully curated installations.

Segal debuted his sculptures in the historic New Realists exhibition at Manhattan’s Sidney Janis Gallery in 1962. Though it was the first major Pop Art exhibition, Segal stood out for his ability to portray human psychology, rather than consumerism and pop culture. His sculptures captured gesture and posture, and an uncanny sense of the model’s presence that was noted in the earliest reviews of his work. His ability to express the figures’ emotional connection to — or distance from — one another became a signature throughout the rest of his career.

Now on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, through July 31, George Segal: Themes and Variations is organized by Donna Gustafson, Chief Curator and Curator of Art of the Americas. Related programs feature an interdisciplinary panel on the topic of anti-monumentality with scholars from Rutgers faculty and Bill Brown from the University of Chicago, as well as two figure drawing workshops in the gallery. The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalogue of the same title, which is available in the museum and from Hirmer Publishers and the University of Chicago Press.

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