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The unbearable heaviness of George (No, not that George)


I understand why you’re supposed to like George Segal’s plaster cast bodies.

I get the humanism.

I get the pull of empathy. As embodiments of loneliness, resignation and the unstoppable pull of gravity and death, these folks demand your attention.

But I’ve always found them difficult. From the plug-ugliness of the plaster to the oh-so-somber-ness of the faces, the works are as subtle as crying children. See one too many, you get annoyed.

Part of the 1960’s culture of oogie anti-art, Segal’s plaster casts kept company with other drippy, gloppy (at the time) merry-makers — Oldenberg, Kienholtz, Johns and Rauchenberg. The art was political and experimental and felt fresh. Forty years later, Segal’s adherence to plaster seems formulaic and played out.

I tried hard to stay the course with the artist’s five-piece, mini-retrospective at Locks Gallery. It’s interesting to learn that the artist cast himself as the standing figure in “The Asian Picnic.” (image is “The Asian Picnic,” 1996) But that knowledge didn’t raise the viewing experience. The ugly plaster, the lack of color, the lack of humor (!!!) the heavy handedness of the work is still difficult.