Lucas Samaras / George Segal

Pastel Drawings 1950s - 1970s and Two Sculptures  
April 23 - June 13, 2010

Lucas Samaras, Untitled May 20, 1960
Pastel on paper, 13 x 10 inches

Senior & Shopmaker is pleased to present an exhibition of pastel drawings and sculpture by noted American artists Lucas Samaras and George Segal. The exhibit includes a selection of pastel drawings dating from the 1950s to 1970s, along with a sculpture by each artist from the 1970s.

George Segal, Untitled (blue nude, green background)
1964, Pastel on colored paper, 18 x 12 inches

Lucas Samaras (b. 1936 Kastoria, Greece and raised in New York from age 11) and George Segal (1924-2000) first met in 1955 at Rutgers University’s College of Arts and Sciences in New Brunswick, New Jersey. They would remain close friends until Segal’s death in 2000. Rutgers, from this period to the mid 1960s, was a hotbed for innovation in art and performance that would involve such avant-garde figures as Allan Kaprow, Robert Watts, Robert Whitman, Geoff Hendricks, and Roy Lichtenstein. Allan Kaprow, the charismatic figure whose introduction of new art theories and practice gave birth to “happenings” in the late 1950s, taught art history and studio art at the college. Kaprow in turn hired George Segal to teach classes for the Sketch Club, an extracurricular class affiliated with the Rutgers art department in which Lucas Samaras enrolled. Meeting weekly, members of the Sketch Club worked from a live model.

In the years that followed, Samaras and Segal would go on to exhibit regularly at such important New York venues as the Hansa Gallery, the Reuben Gallery, and Green Gallery. Both artists would participate in “Happenings” produced on Segal’s chicken farm near the Rutgers campus; and Samaras, mummified in plaster, would serve as one of the models for Segal’s important sculpture tableau, The Dinner Table, 1962.

Although Samaras and Segal would set out on divergent paths of art making, the genesis of their individual styles can be traced back to these early pastel drawings. Both as an instructor for the Sketch Club, and in his personal transition from painting to sculpture, Segal continued to explore pictorial concerns in pastel drawings of the female model in interior settings. These early works are closely tied to art historical traditions – Segal himself cited Matisse, Bonnard, and the cropped figures of Degas’s pastels as inspiration.

In their expressionistic color and handling, Segal’s pastels appear to have been formative in Samaras’s gestural painting of the 1970s. Restless movement pervades the works of the latter: motion inherent in the figures implies a continuation of the forms beyond the picture plane, paralleling the artist’s groundbreaking Polaroid photographs. Figure studies, self -portraits, surreal abstractions, and interiors where the figure is absent but implied are among the images that inhabit Samaras’s pastels. Drawings such as Untitled #6, 1974 are characterized by opulent color, abstract patterns reminiscent of Byzantine mosaics, and complex spatial relationships. Such pre-occupation with decoration and pattern would reveal itself in the artist’s box sculptures from the early 1970s.

In contrast, by 1964, Segal began to simplify his compositions. Views of partial torsos dominate, some defined simply by an elegant contour line. In these later drawings his color becomes bolder and more sensuous. A much-used technique was to allow the color of the paper to shimmer through the application of intense hues. Though never intended as preliminary studies for sculptures, these pastels anticipate Segal’s preoccupation with his painted figure reliefs of the 1970s.

George Segal was born in Bronx, New York in 1926 and studied art at the Cooper Union Art School, Pratt Institute, New York University, Rutgers and the State University of New Jersey, where he earned a bachelor's degree in art education in 1950 and a master's degree in fine art in 1963. He was the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Premium Imperiale from Japan in 1998 and a National Medal of the Arts in 1999. Major public commissions include works for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. and Legion of Honor Park in San Francisco.

Lucas Samaras, born in Greece in 1936, entered Columbia University’s Graduate Department of Art History following his graduation from Rutgers. Samaras has been the subject of more than onehundred solo-exhibitions and seven retrospectives throughout his career, including Unrepentant Ego, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 2004. In 2009, Samaras represented Greece at the 53rd International Art Exhibition, The Venice Biennale.

For further information, please contact Betsy Senior or Laurence Shopmaker, at 212-213-6767 or gallery@seniorandshopmaker.com.

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