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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the March 5, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

George Segal: New Jersey

It is a testament to George Segal that art historian

Phyllis Tuchman says he is still one of her favorite topics.

The sculptor, who lived most of his adult life in rural South Brunswick,

is known the world over for his direct-cast sculptures of ordinary

people in environments that evoke the nobility of everyday life. Tuchman

was still a student at Passaic High School in the 1960s when she first

came across his work in a New York gallery. She wrote and published

her first article on him while still an undergraduate at Boston University,

and eventually became the author of the key monograph, "George

Segal," published in 1983 and still in print.

Now an independent art scholar, Tuchman gives a talk on "The Relevance

of George Segal" at the Zimmerli Art Museum on Wednesday, March

12, at 7 p.m. Her talk is one of three lectures offered in conjunction

with the museum’s current major touring exhibition, "George Segal

Retrospective: From the Artist’s Studio" on view to May 25. Segal

died at home of cancer in June, 2000, at age 75.

In a recent phone interview from her home in Manhattan, Tuchman says

she and the Segal family have remained close since their first meeting

in 1967 because "George was the kind of person you didn’t want

to lose in your life." She used to introduce herself as someone

"who met George before he had gray hair. But then later on I had

to say I met George before both of us had gray hair."

The Zimmerli’s 90-work Segal retrospective is composed primarily of

works loaned by the George and Helen Segal Foundation and represents

all major aspects of Segal’s career from 1957 to 2000. It emphasizes

a significant vein of work that has not been widely seen: his two

and three-dimensional wall-mounted works. There are a large number

of paintings, pastels, and large-scale drawings spanning his career,

and the 3-D works include high reliefs, imagery in box-frame formats,

"shelf sculptures" (literally assembled on a shelf and attached

to the wall with brackets), and figurative paintings combined with

found objects. A color catalogue accompanies the show.

Notable in the exhibit is "The Legend of Lot," 1958, a large

painting before which stands a rough-hewn white plaster figure; the

seven-part "Pregnancy Series" of 1978, literally depicting

a woman’s ripening pregnant body over seven months; "Cezanne Still

Life No. 4," a masterful three-dimensional take on Cezanne; and

a powerful selection of pastels including two from his slaughtered

meat series.

Tuchman feels that growing up in Passaic is key to her bond with Segal

and his work.

"The best writers on George come from New Jersey," says Tuchman.

She mentions books by Sam Hunter and the late William Seitz, both

art historians who worked for a time at the Museum of Modern Art,

but also in Princeton. "There’s a part of George’s work that’s

part of growing up in New Jersey. I know you can talk about L.A. being

a car culture, but New Jersey is a car culture. There are certain

rhythms in George’s work that I just absolutely understand."

She says in New Jersey "there’s this thing where you have one

foot in the New York art world but you have your other foot in real

life."

"My dad loved art," she explains. "He owned a bakery on

Jefferson Street and he loved taking my mother and sister and me to

New York on weekends. So my dad engendered this love for going to

museums, and from my reading the New York Times and Time magazine,

I discovered there was something called art galleries. I would get

on the bus and go to New York. And one day when I was in high school

I actually saw one of George Segal’s first shows with his plaster

cast figures. I was absolutely awestruck by the work."

Retrospectively, that Green Gallery show in the early

1960s is remembered as one of his most important because it featured

the "Gas Station," a key Segal environment now at the National

Gallery of Canada.

At 19 and a college junior, Tuchman was back in Passaic one day without

her parents but with custody of their car. "I jumped in the car

and drove to New Brunswick and I called George on the phone and asked

if I could come visit him at his studio. He said come right over.

I think he and Helen were having dinner guests that night, but I was

able to go to the studio. It was so cool driving up Davidson’s Mill

Road, and the easiest way you recognized the house, at least then,

was to look for the sculpture that George was working on that was

leaning against the garage."

The following year she wrote her college honors essay on Segal and

was encouraged by a museum curator to send it to the art magazines.

"So that’s what I did. Art International accepted it for publication

and I got accepted for graduate school the same day. So a big, big

piece of my heart goes to George Segal — such a loving, warm,

kind man, but he also figured in important moments in my life."

When asked why she thinks her "George Segal" book has stayed

in print for 20 years, she immediately answers: "Luck."

"I never exactly knew how the book happened. I think somebody

recommended me and I was asked to write it. The book had a great editor

and a terrific designer. You can’t underestimate that stuff."

"In the Passaic public school system we were taught to use simple

words and simple sentences and to be accessible. I think the great

luck of my book on Segal is that I’m sharing his warmth and his directness

and his sophisticated simplicity."

"As an art critic I’ve always felt that when I’m writing I’m just

like my reader except I know a little more. I always hope never to

talk down to somebody and I think George’s sculpture shares that spirit

of being there, of being like the other person."

Tuchman says her Zimmerli talk will focus on Segal’s continued relevance

to artists and art lovers.

"There are an awful lot of very important figurative artists,

representational sculptors, and installation makers who learned a

lot from George. George was a trailblazer and has never adequately

got his due for his huge influence on not just one younger generation,

but two or three."

The show, she says, stresses the unknown George Segal. "This is

material that hasn’t really been exhibited often. I think it’s a little

bit more difficult, they’re odd pieces."

She cites the show’s "The Legend of Lot" of 1958 as a crucial

piece in Segal’s career. "It was soon after he made it that he

looked at it and he realized he was a sculptor," says Tuchman.

"Certainly the figure of Lot in front of the painting is rough

and awkward. And that’s part of the wonderment of the whole thing.

George made quite a number of hand-made plaster figures between the

`Legend of Lot’ and wrapping himself in the bandages [in 1961]. That’s

why when he saw the bandages he knew what it was. He had been fooling

around with plaster."

Segal made his first direct-cast white plaster figure

from his own body in 1961. "Man Sitting at a Table" shows

his rotund figure seated on a wooden chair, at a small wooden table

covered with a plastic sheet, with a weathered window sash standing

alongside. Throughout the 1960s and into the ’70s, most of the figures

were left as white plaster. Later works, represented in the Zimmerli

show, are painted in black or metallic silver, bold primary colors,

some with brushed heightened flesh tones.

"I think George was a very courageous artist who stuck to his

own guns. George attended Stuyvesant High School, one of the elite

high schools in the United States, and more Nobel Prize winners came

from his high school than any other high school in America. But he

wasn’t studying to be a rocket scientist; he became a great artist.

And so right away you have this image of this great mind marching

to his own drummer.

"The fact that George kept working with figures in an age of abstraction

is kind of amazing. They were pretty much out in the New York art

world at the end of the ’50s. It was a very brave, courageous thing

for him to keep doing what he was doing.

"After a while it got sort of boring because the critics would

say, `same old, same old.’ Then after he died — I couldn’t believe

it — Michael Kimmelman wrote in the New York Times, `This man

was wonderful, he stuck to his guns’ — but nobody said that while

he was alive."

As the show demonstrates, drawing was Segal’s lifelong preoccupation.

"The evolution of the works on paper is astonishing, to watch

it grow and change, very obviously figure oriented. And then towards

the end of his life George just fell in love with what Rembrandt could

do on paper."

"I find it absurd to place abstract painting in direct conflict

with figuration," Segal once said. "I think the ability to

pull all threads of our experience together is the one that makes

most sense to me. And if I’m interested in portraits, I’m intensely

interested in what’s the real nature of the person whom I’m drawing.

I want a revelation of what’s inside that person as well as what he

or she looks like."

Born in New York in 1924 and raised during the Depression, Segal’s

father ran a kosher butcher shop in the Bronx where his mother also

worked. In 1940 his parents bought a chicken farm in South Brunswick

where he eventually went to work. There he met his wife, Helen, the

daughter of a neighboring farmer, and the couple married in 1946 and

soon bought their own farm where Helen Segal still lives. The couple

raised two children, Rena, an artist, and Jeffrey. Actively pursuing

his career in art from 1953, Segal taught art in area high schools,

and in 1963 earned his MFA at Rutgers.

Segal was famous for having family and friends for his models, maintaining

that his models had to have "a rich inner life."

Tuchman says the first time he asked her to model, she turned him

down. But eventually he made a portrait cast of her head and painted

it in pastels. "After I finally modeled, oh I regretted not doing

it sooner," she says with a laugh. "It was such a great experience.

The most amazing thing about modeling for George, he didn’t touch

you. He had these magic fingers."

"George was a loyal person with a lot of loyal friends. He was

so loved. He was so smart and so caring and so very bright. He was

a good son and good father. He once told me if God came to him and

asked him to sacrifice his son — as with Abraham and Isaac —

he couldn’t do it."

Ultimately, Tuchman believes the accessibility of Segal’s art was

held against him by the art establishment. His "Bread Line,"

part of the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, is among the most popular

works at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton.

"I sat in front of the `Bread Line’ one Labor Day weekend in Washington,

and in one hour 55 photographs were taken by people lining up in the

bread line. Have you ever seen people do that with another work of

art?," she says with emphasis.

"The first time I saw his Holocaust piece in Golden Gate Park

in San Francisco, the entire area was enveloped in a fog. I was looking

at the piece and all you heard were fog horns. It was amazing. There’s

a poetry to George that sends shivers up your back when you’re in

the right place and right time."

— Nicole Plett

Phyllis Tuchman, Zimmerli Art Museum, George and

Hamilton streets, New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. Slide talk on "The

Relevance of George Segal" in conjunction with current retrospective

exhibit. $3. Wednesday, March 12, 7 p.m.

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Art in Town

Anne Reid Art Gallery, Princeton Day School, 650 Great

Road, 609-924-6700. Sculptures and assemblages by La Thorial Badenhausen.

Opening reception with the artist is Friday, March 7, 11 a.m. to 2

p.m., for the show that runs to April 2. Free.

Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, 609-924-7206. "Asia

In My Mind," an exhibition of photography by Barbara Bickford.

Educated at London’s Slade School of Art, Bickford’s images of China,

Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Cambodia reflect her fascination

with those countries and their culture. Show runs to March 7.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158

Nassau Street, 609-921-6748. "From Tow Path to Bike Path: Princeton

and the Delaware and Raritan Canal," an exhibition on the history

and creation of the canal, the life of death of its workers, and recent

environmental and preservation issues. Open Tuesday to Sunday, noon

to 4 p.m.; through March.

Medical Center at Princeton, 253 Witherspoon Street, 609-497-4000.

Traditional and contemporary Chinese paintings by Seow-Chu See. A

member of the Garden State Watercolor Society, her work has been shown

in group and solo exhibits throughout the area. To March 19.

Princeton Jewish Center, 435 Nassau Street, 609-921-0100.

A show of exuberant oils by the Russian-born artist who paints under

the name YomTov. The artist, who has made Israel his home since 1994,

is inspired by Jewish themes. His works include expressionistic, spiritual

interpretations of biblical figures and events. Part of sales benefits

the center. Gallery is open Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.;

Friday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Saturdays. To March 16.

SweeTree Gallery, 286 Alexander Street, 609-934-8665.

"Brotherly Love, Art from the African Diaspora" featuring

paintings by Rhinold Lamar Ponder and Keith Goffe. Also works by artists

from Haiti, Grenada, Jamaica, and Guyana. Reception features music

by Larry Thomasson. Fridays and Saturdays, 1 to 6 p.m., and Sundays

1 to 4 p.m. To March 15.

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Campus Arts

Princeton University Art Museum, 609-258-3788. "The

Photographs of Ed Ranney: The John B. Elliott Collection," an

overview of the artist’s career from 1970 and 1999. First recognized

for his photographic studies of Mayan stonework in the 1970s, Ranney

began a collaboration with the artist Charles Ross in 1979, documenting

the evolution of Ross’s earthwork sculpture "Star Axis," a

monumental naked-eye celestial observatory being carved into a cliff

face in eastern New Mexico. Ranney will give a lecture on "Space

and Place" Wednesday, April 9, at 4:30 p.m. in McCormick 106.

Show runs to June 7.

Ranney’s most recent project is a continuing series of emotionally

charged landscapes of the Andean coastal desert of Peru, remarkable

for the carefully rendered tension between the subtle shadows of ruins

emerging from the desert and the vast expanses of these open valleys

that begin against the Andes Mountains and terminate abruptly at the

Pacific Ocean.

Also "Seeing the Unseen: Abstract Photography, 1900 to 1940,"

to March 23. "The Arts of Asia: Works in the Permanent Collection"

to June 30. Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1

to 5 p.m. Highlights tours Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Milberg Gallery, Firestone Library, Princeton University,

609-258-3184. "Unseen Hands: Women Printers, Binders, and Book

Designers," a Milberg Gallery exhibition curated by Rebecca Warren

Davidson. To March 30.

Bernstein Gallery, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson

School, 609-258-1651. "Africa’s Lunatics," a photography show

by French photographer Vincent Fougere that depicts how Africa cares

for and treats its mentally ill. After a childhood spent in the Ivory

Coast, Fougere spent eight years traveling across Africa to photograph

its bruised souls. Opening reception is Friday, February 7. Monday

to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To March 21.

College of New Jersey, Art Gallery, Holman Hall, Ewing,

609-771-2198. "A Community of Artists: Sculpture from Members

of the Johnson Atelier" featuring work by 15 staff and apprentices

of the Technical Institute of Sculpture in Mercerville, curated by

CNJ faculty artist Charles Kumnick and gallery director Judy Masterson.

Monday through Friday, noon to 3 p.m.; Thursday 7 to 9 p.m.; and Sunday,

1 to 3 p.m. To April 2.

Rider University Art Gallery, Student Center, Route 206,

Lawrenceville, 609-895-5589. "Altered Books: Spine Bending

Thrillers," curated by Karen McDemott, and showcasing the works

of 14 artists from across the country. Area professionals Sarah Stengle

of Princeton, Maria Pisano of Plainsboro, and Liz Mitchell of Pittstown

are among the featured artists. Gallery hours are Tuesday through

Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. To March

6.

Princeton Theological Seminary, Erdman Hall Gallery, 20

Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Fabrications," an exhibition

of textiles by fabric artist Carol Sara Schepps, a graduate of the

Pratt Institute of Technology in New York. Reception February 21,

4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m.

to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2 to 8 p.m. To March 14.

"My artwork examines the light, reflection, and complex elements

that make up otherwise common objects," says the artist. "By

unfolding the relationship of lights, darks, and color, I break down

an image and translate it into a melange of fabric and construction

techniques."

Zimmerli Art Museum, George and Hamilton streets, New

Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "George Segal: Sculpture, Paintings,

and Drawings from the Artist’s Studio;" to May 26. Also: "June

Wayne: Selected Graphics, 1950 to 2000," a show celebrating Wayne’s

recent appointment as a research professor at Rutgers and the establishment

of the June Wayne Study Center and Archive, located in the RCIPP at

the Mason Gross School; to June 29. "Russian Cover Design, 1920s

to 1930s: The Graphic Face of the Post-Revolutionary and Stalinist

Periods"; to March 30. "Sergei Paradjanov Off Camera: Collages,

Assemblages, and Objects," to March 16. Open Tuesday through Friday,

10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Spotlight

tours every Sunday at 2 and 3 p.m. Admission $3 adults; under 18 free;

and free on the first Sunday of every month.

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Art In Trenton

Extension Gallery, 60 Sculptors Way, Mercerville, 609-890-7777.

"The Sum of Its Parts," an exhibition of paintings, assemblage,

kinetic, and static sculpture by Joanna Platt. Opening reception Saturday,

February 15, 5 to 7 p.m. Open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

To March 6.

Platt’s work explores the relationship between humans and machines;

the complex ways we internatlize the machines we have created and,

conversely, the ways in which they begin to resemble us. A graduate

of Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers, she is supervisor of the

pattern development department of the Johnson Atelier.

Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton,

609-586-0616. Fall/Winter Exhibition. In the Museum, new work by glass

artist Dale Chihuly, to April 6. In the Domestic Arts Building "Focus

on Sculpture 2003," an annual juried exhibition of photographs

by amateur photographers. Juror is Hope R. Proper of the Perkins Center

for the Arts. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., year

round; Sunday is Members Day. Adult admission is $4 Tuesday through

Thursday; $7 Friday and Saturday; and $10 Sunday. Individual memberships

start at $55. To April 6.

Rhinehart-Fischer Gallery, 46 West Lafayette, Trenton,

609-695-0061. Ritch Gaiti, "Returning to the Spirits, A Painted

Journey of the West." A self-taught painter, Gaiti spent 26 ears

in the corporate world and retired from his first career as the first

vice president and senior director of advanced technology at Merrill

Lynch. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To April 26.

Area Galleries

Abud Family Foundation for the Arts, 3100 Princeton Pike,

Building 4, third floor, Lawrenceville, 609-896-0732. Solo show

of paintings and sculptures by Mexican artist Rony Chubich. The Abud

Family Foundation for the Arts was established in 2002 to promote

Ibero-American art in various forms. Show runs to April 11.

Created by area neurosurgoen Ariel Abud and his family, the foundation

promotes the contemporary arts of Spain, Latin America, and Central

America. It awards stipends to artists, with an invitation to travel

to the U.S. and exhibit their work in the small Lawrenceville gallery.

Gallery is open by appointment, Wednesday to Saturday, 1:30 to 6 p.m.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, 609-333-8511.

Shared show featuring "Water in Motion" by Jay Goodkind and

"Without Tools He is Nothing," new works by Robert Borsuk.

Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment.

To March 16.

Lawrence Headquarters Branch Library, Darrah Lane and

Route 1, Lawrence Township, 609-989-6920. David J. Simchock’s photography

exhibition, "Vagabond Vistas." The images were captured during

the artist’s three-year journey through five continents. On view to

March 28.

Nonesuch Framing & Fine Art, 1378 Route 206 South, Skillman,

609-252-0020. Exhibition of Japanese paper dolls, or washiningyo

handmade by Jill Nielsen. Also on view, Japanese woodblock prints,

both antique and modern. Show runs to March 14.

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Area Museums

American Hungarian Foundation Museum, 300 Somerset Street,

New Brunswick, 732-846-5777. "From the Old World to the New World,"

recent additions to the collection featuring works by nine Hungarian

Americans who emigrated to the U.S. between 1920 and 1957. Artists

are Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Bertha and Elena De Hellenbranth, Sandor Sugor,

Emil Kelemen, Willy Pogany, Tibor Gergely, Zoltan Poharnok, and Vincent

Korda. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and

Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. $5 donation. Through April.

Cornelius Low House Museum, 1225 River Road, Piscataway,

732-745-4177. "Uncommon Clay: New Jersey’s Architectural Terra

Cotta Industry," an exhibition of artifacts and written and oral

histories of New Jersey’s once booming architectural ceramics industry.

Open Tuesday through Friday, 1 to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.

To May 30.

Hunterdon Museum of Art, Lower Center Street, Clinton,

908-735-8415. "2003 Annual Members Exhibition," juror Rocio

Aranda-Alvarado of Jersey City Museum. "Drawings by John Patterson:

Process, Reveries, and Accumulations." Open Tuesday to Sunday,

11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To March 8.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton,

609-292-6464. "Cultures in Competition: Indians and Europeans

in Colonial New Jersey," a show that traces the impact of European

settlement on the native Indians’ way of life after 1600. On extended

view: "Art by African-Americans: A Selection from the Collection;"

"New Jersey’s Native Americans: The Archaeological Record;"

"Delaware Indians of New Jersey;" "The Sisler Collection

of North American Mammals;" "Of Rock and Fire;" "Neptune’s

Architects;" "The Modernists;" "New Jersey Ceramics,

Silver, Glass and Iron;" "Historical Archaeology of Colonial

New Jersey;" "Washington Crossing the Delaware."

Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown,

215-340-9800. "Randall Exon: A Quiet Light," a solo show by

the Philadelphia-area painter and Swarthmore College professor; to

April 27. "A Home of Our Own," a show that commemorates Levittown’s

50th anniversary featuring the contemporary photographs of Jean Klatchko

and vintage objects from the State Museum; to April 13. Winter hours:

Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;

and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Admission $6 adults; $3 students and children.

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Art in the Workplace

Gallery at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Route 206, Lawrenceville,

609-252-6275. "Hidden Threads," a show featuring six New Jersey

textile artists, each working with the medium in a different way.

Soyoo Park Caltabiano, Nancy Staub Laughlin, Patricia Malarcher, Joy

Saville, Armando Sosa, and Erma Martin Yost are featured. Open Monday

to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends and holidays, 1 to 5 p.m. To

March 16.

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Art by the River

E.M. Adams Gallery, 44 Union Square Drive, New Hope, 215-862-5667.

Painter and sculptor Edward M. Adams’ new gallery space. A widely

exhibited artist, Adams is also a licensed psychologist with a private

practice in Somerville. Winter gallery hours Friday, Saturday, and

Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Atelier Gallery, 108 Harrison Street, Frenchtown, 908-996-9992.

"Creatures," a theme art show to benefit the Hunterdon County

SPCA animal shelter. Featured artists include Robert Beck, Anne Cooper

Dobbins, Lisa Mahan, Kim Robertson, Barry Snyder, and Stacie Speer-Scott.

Gallery is open Thursday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To March 31.

Coryell Gallery & Lambertville Historical Society, 8 Coryell

Street, Lambertville, 609-397-0804. Lambertville Historical Society’s

23d annual juried art exhibition, "Lambertville and the Surrounding

Area." Juror is Mel Leipzig. The show’s eight award-winning artists

are Tom Birkner, W. Carl Burger, Vincent Ceglia, Marge Chavooshian,

Alexander Farnham, Bryan Fisher, Robert Sakson, and Luiz Vilela. Gallery

hours are Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To March 16.

Louisa Melrose Gallery, 41 Bridge Street, Frenchtown,

908-996-1470. "Too Soon for Spring?" show features flower-theme

works by 20 gallery artists including W. Carl Burger, Christina Debarry,

and Charles Nelson. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To March

8.


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