“Bridge View” is an occasional column that focuses on arts and entertainment happenings on the other side of the Albany Street Bridge.
There’s a new presence on the College Avenue Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick: Walking Man, a permanent outdoor installation by internationally renowned sculptor – and longtime South Brunswick, New Jersey, resident – George Segal. You can find the single bronze figure in stride at the refurbished northwest corner of George and Hamilton Streets, where it appears headed toward the entrance of the Zimmerli Museum at 71 Hamilton Street.
“Creative Expression and the Human Experience is an integrating theme of the university’s strategic plan,” stated Richard L. Edwards, the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chancellor at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Walking Man symbolizes our respect for the value of human expression—an expression that transcends national borders and differences in politics, religion, culture, language, and areas of study. We are proud of our leadership in the arts and delighted to provide a home for this work by an important American artist and Rutgers graduate.”
The sculptures of George Segal (1924-2000) may be some of the most recognizable in the world, even to those unfamiliar with art history or the work of 20th-century artists. Originally cast in 1988 at the Johnson Atelier in Hamilton Township, Walking Man was donated to the Zimmerli by the George and Helen Segal Foundation in 2011, in honor of Jeffrey Wechsler, a longtime senior curator at the museum. The Segal Foundation also supported conservation and preparation of the sculpture to ready it for installation outdoors.
“Walking Man is an iconic work within George Segal’s career. The Zimmerli’s sculpture is distinguished by its human scale, everyday demeanor, and relationship with passersby – sharing their life, joining their world,” observed Marti Mayo, the Zimmerli’s interim director. “The sculptor was an important part of the development of the visual arts at Rutgers and, with this gift, his work in the museum’s collection becomes more representative of his long and productive career as a seminal artist of the 20th century.”
Born in New York City, George Segal moved with his family to South Brunswick in 1940. His father started a chicken farm, a business Mr. Segal continued on land he purchased across the road – until he turned to art as a profession and converted the chicken coops to studio space. In 1942, he began his relationship with Rutgers University, where he took courses over the next few years. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, he became associated with Fluxus artists who were active at the university and hosted some of their legendary events – including Allan Kaprow’s first “Happening” – at his farm. Mr. Segal went on to earn a master of fine arts degree from Rutgers in 1963 and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1970. In addition, George Segal’s daughter and niece graduated from Rutgers.
While painting, drawing, photography, and printmaking were always important aspects of the artist’s production, Mr. Segal’s international reputation was built on his sculpture. His best known works feature human figures cast in plaster directly from models, which are placed (alone or incorporated with artifacts and backdrops) directly into the environment, both indoors and outside. “In many ways George Segal’s engagement with everyday life in his sculpture transformed the way that we all experience space, objects, the city, other human beings, and art,” noted Donna Gustafson, the Zimmerli’s Andrew W. Mellon Liaison for Academic Programs and Curator. “Like many of Segal’s sculptures, Walking Man expresses a profoundly human moment: a pause that suggests reflection, indecision, or possibly regret in the midst of moving forward.”
The Zimmerli’s Walking Man is one of two casts of the figure made by George Segal that is on public view; the other is located in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden adjacent to the Walker Art Center in Minnesota. A number of Mr. Segal’s other works from the Zimmerli’s permanent collection are currently on view in the museum. Bus Shelter (1996) greets visitors in the lobby, its anonymous figures expressing their empathy for those who wait and watch, in this case for a public bus. The George Segal Gallery on the lower level includes Old Testament Moon (1958-59), an expressionist work from the artist’s career when he worked in two-dimensional media, and the seven-part Pregnancy Series (1978), his only foray into a three-dimensional work with serial imagery. Blue Woman on Black Bed (1996) currently shares the company of work by other contemporary artists in the American Gallery.
The installation of Walking Man coincides with the exhibition George Segal in Black and White: Photographs by Donald Lokuta, which offers museum visitors a rare opportunity to see the artist’s studio through Lokuta’s intimate images. The two met in 1984 at the sculptor’s studio in South Brunswick, sparking an artistic alliance that would last more than 16 years and result in nearly 15,000 negatives. The first selection of this two-part exhibition, through May 16, considers George Segal inside and beyond his studio (with friends, family, and models), as well as the studio itself as subject. The second installment, on view May 23 to July 31, focuses on George Segal at work on his iconic figures. The show is accompanied by a catalogue of the same title, which contains 70 reproductions of the photographs (Blue Woman on Black Bed is captured in several) and written contributions from Robert Pinsky (United States Poet Laureate, 1997-2000), Donna Gustafson, Donald Lokuta, and former Zimmerli director Suzanne Delehanty. The catalogue is made possible by the George and Helen Segal Foundation, with additional support from Suzanne Delehanty in memory of Helen Segal.
ZIMMERLI ART MUSEUM|RUTGERS
The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum houses more than 60,000 works of art, ranging from ancient to contemporary art. The permanent collection features particularly rich holdings in 19th-century French art; Russian art from icons to the avant-garde; Soviet nonconformist art from the Dodge Collection; and American art with notable holdings of prints. In addition, small groups of antiquities, old master paintings, as well as art inspired by Japan and original illustrations for children’s books, provide representative examples of the museum’s research and teaching message at Rutgers. One of the largest and most distinguished university-based art museums in the nation, the Zimmerli is located on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers at 71 Hamilton Street at George Street. Admission is free. Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and the first Tuesday of each month (except August), 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays, as well as the month of August.