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The Curtain

1974 George Segal Born: New York, New York 1924 Died: South Brunswick, New Jersey 2000 mixed media: plaster, glass and painted wood 84 1/2 x 39 1/4 x 35 1/2 in. (214.6 x 99.7 x 90.2 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase (c) 1978, George Segal 1978.62 Smithsonian American Art Museum
3rd Floor, North Wing

Gallery Label

Segal found his themes in accidental glimpses of other people's lives, and his cast figures reveal and conceal at the same time. In this work, the woman's poetic gesture of parting the curtain evokes Segal's delicate touch as he captured the intimate details of another person's body. The artist wrapped his models in plaster-impregnated gauze and used either the rough external form or, as in The Curtain, cast a second figure from the impression inside the casing. His technique demanded that his sitters keep their eyes shut, and the resulting faces remain impassive while the body alone communicates. Pop art gave him the freedom to try his unorthodox technique of body casting, which had always been against the rules of serious sculpture. Segal rejected the "rule" against casting, as he had rejected the pressure to paint abstractions in the 1950s. Here, the contrasts of shadows and white plaster and the sense of a moment captured in passing reflect Segal's love of 1930s movies and for the "miraculous" quality of "ordinary life and ordinary space."

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006


Architecture Interior - detail - window

Figure female - nude