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George Segal, American, 1924 - 2000

Made in United States, North and Central America


Plaster, wood, plastic, metal, electric light

8 feet × 8 feet 5 inches × 60 inches (243.8 × 256.5 × 152.4 cm)

© The George and Helen Segal Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York

Curatorial Department:
Contemporary Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of the Friends of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1977

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Additional information:
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    In 1961 George Segal, who had trained as a painter, invented a process of creating direct casts of the human body with common surgical bandages dipped in plaster and water, materials typically used by doctors to set broken limbs. His discovery signaled a definitive break with the activity of painting on canvas. For Segal, sculpture opened the door to the exploration of human psychology and the expression of human dramas, concerns that informed his training as a painter in an atmosphere dominated by Abstract Expressionism. As he said, "Casting left me free to compose and to present content. I could report on my model and not on me; it was a rejection of the psychological distance of the canvas painter."1

    Segal discovered new narrative possibilities for his ghostly white life-size human surrogates when he began situating them in evocative environments constructed from real objects, such as furniture and appliances. These assemblage techniques, joined with the concerns of narrative and abstraction, are explored in Exit. The model for this sculpture was a young assistant at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York, where Segal's work first attracted attention when he participated in the 1962 exhibition "New Realism," the show that launched Pop art. The figure of the walking woman is one element in the collage-like tableau that Segal created from squares of different dimensions, materials, colors, and letters. Sandwiched between two parallel planes, one of perforated metal and the other a lightboard suggestive of a glowing abstract painting, she is captured in a moment that is both banal and profound. The word "Exit" makes an ambiguous comment on the quiet existential drama, as the figure passes from one undefined space to another. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 123.

    1) Sam Hunter and Don Hawthorne, George Segal (New York: Rizzoli, 1984), p. 35.

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