Press Release: Graduate Center Art Gallery to Show George Segal Pastels, Drawings, and Photos


An unusual opportunity to view works on paper by George Segal, best known for his sculptures, will be presented by the Art Gallery of The Graduate Center from September 18 through November 8. The exhibition, titled “George Segal: Works on Paper, 1960-1999," will feature 55 works, primarily pastel and pen-and-ink drawings, and gelatin silver prints of photographs. The Gallery will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 12 to 6 pm. The Graduate Center of the City University of New York is located at 365 Fifth Avenue (34th Street).

There will be an opening reception on Wednesday, September 17, from 5 to 7 pm.

Since the 1960s, when his startling juxtapositions of direct-cast, life-size plaster figures with actual objects first garnered international recognition, George Segal (1924-2000) has been hailed as one of the foremost sculptors of the 20th century. Drawing was an ongoing practice that sustained and complemented Segal’s sculpture. The decision to focus on this lesser-known aspect of his creativity was prompted by the beauty of these works and the insights they provide about Segal’s link to revered old and modern masters.

Segal was born in 1924 to immigrant parents in the Bronx and brought up during the Depression. Despite parental reservations, he enrolled in foundation courses at Cooper Union in 1941, but left the following year when his brother was drafted and he was obliged to help out on the family’s New Jersey chicken farm. In 1947, he resumed full-time study, focusing on painting. After earning a degree in Art Education, he struggled for nine years to make his own chicken farm a viable source of income while teaching evening classes and continuing to paint. Not until 1958 did he sell the chickens and convert the structure that had housed them into a studio.

Segal embarked on his first sculptural experiments in the summer of 1958. He continued to exhibit large, expressively painted canvases in his first solo exhibition at the Green Gallery in 1960, but the following year, his fortuitous discovery of medical bandages would lead to the direct-casting method on which his subsequent sculpture was based. In the 60s, his work evolved into startling juxtapositions of direct-cast plaster figures with actual elements of private and public environments.

Drawing from models was an ongoing practice which enabled Segal to develop an extensive repertory of movement and gesture that informed his sculptural activity, and also afforded him enormous pleasure. Pastel was his preferred technique, and it elicited periods of sustained activity in the 60s, 80s, and 90s. Segal also focused on the people and objects in his immediate environment in powerful ink drawings, employing networks of dense cross-hatched lines to create vigorous patterns of light and dark.

In 1990, when serious back problems temporarily prevented him from making sculpture, Segal began to explore areas in lower Manhattan and New Jersey with his camera. Many of the photographs taken during these excursions document the radical change and decay of the urban and suburban landscapes, as well as the estrangement of their inhabitants.

The Graduate Center is the doctorate-granting institution of The City University of New York. The only consortium of its kind in the nation, The Graduate Center draws its faculty of more than 1,600 members mainly from the CUNY senior colleges and cultural and scientific institutions throughout New York City.

Established in 1961, The Graduate Center has grown to an enrollment of about 3,700 students in 30 doctoral programs and six master's degree programs in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. The Graduate Center also houses 28 research centers and institutes, administers the CUNY Baccalaureate Program, and offers a wide range of continuing education and cultural programs of interest to the general public.

According to the most recent National Research Council report, more than a third of The Graduate Center's rated Ph.D. programs rank among the nation's top 20 at public and private institutions (including the Ph.D. Program in Art History), nearly a quarter are among the top ten when compared to publicly supported institutions alone, and more than half are among the top five programs at publicly supported institutions in the northeast.

Submitted on: AUG 1, 2003

Category: James Gallery, Press Room