Environments and Installations
we can enter it, in which case we call it architecture.
A number of artists associated with Pop Art have also turned to
assemblage because they find the flat surface of the canvas too
confining. In order to bridge the gap between image and reality, they
often introduce three-dimensional objects into their pictures. Some even
construct full-scale models of everyday things and real-life situations,
utilizing every conceivable kind of material in order to embrace the
entire range of their physical environment, including the people, in
their work. These "environments" combine the qualities of painting,
sculpture, collage, and stagecraft. Being three-dimensional, they can
claim to be considered sculpture, but the claim rests on a convention
which Pop Art itself has helped to make obsolete. According to this
convention, a flat or smoothly curved work of art covered with colors is
a painting (or, if the surface is not covered, a drawing). Everything
else is sculpture, whether or not the surface is colored and regardless
of the material, size, or degree of relief
Our habit of using the term "sculpture" in this sense is only a few
hundred years old. Antiquity and the Middle Ages had separate terms to
denote various kinds of sculpture according to the materials and working
processes involved, but no single term that covered them all. Maybe it
is time to revive such distinctions and to modify the all-inclusive
definition of sculpture by acknowledging "environments" as a separate
category, distinct from both painting and sculpture in its use of
heterogeneous materials ("mixed mediums") and blurring of the borderline
between image and reality. The differences are underscored by
"installations," which are expansions of environments into room-size
George Segal (born
creates three-dimensional lifesize pictures showing
people and objects in everyday situations. The subject of Cinema
(fig. 1163) is ordinary
enough to be instantly recognizable: a man changing the letters on a
movie-theater marquee. Yet the relation of image and reality is far more
subtle and complex than the obvious authenticity of the scene suggests.
The man's figure is cast from a live model by a technique of Segal's
invention and retains its ghostly white plaster surface.Thus it is one
crucial step removed from our world of daily experience, and the
neon-lit sign has been carefully designed to complement and set off the
shadowed figure. Moreover, the scene is brought down from its natural
context, high above the entrance to the theater, where we might have
glimpsed it in passing, and is presented at eye level, in isolation, so
that we grasp it completely for the first time.
George Segal. Cinema.
Plaster, metal, plexiglass, and fluorescent light,
m x 2.4 m
x 77 cm.
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
born Nov. 26, 1924, New York, N.Y., U.S.
died June 9, 2000, South Brunswick, N.J.
American sculptor of monochromatic, cast plaster figures often situated in
environments of mundane furnishings and objects.
Segal was educated at the Cooper Union, Pratt Institute of Design, New
York University (B.S., 1950), and Rutgers University (M.F.A., 1963) and
began his artistic career as an abstract painter. In 1958 he started
creating sculptures from chicken wire and plaster and two years later
turned to plastercasts, often using family members and friends as models.
Though he was associated with members of the burgeoning Pop art movement
in the late 1950s, Segal's sculptures, which were frequently outfitted
with the bland commercial props of the Pop idiom, are distinguished from
that characteristically ironic movement by a mute, ghostly anguish. His
casting technique, in which the live model is wrapped in strips of
plaster-soaked cheesecloth, imparts a rough texture and a minimum of
surface detail to the figures,thus heightening the sense of anonymity and
isolation. Notable works include The Truck (1966), The Laundromat
(1966–67), and Hot Dog Stand (1978).