….a fascination with opposites. The theory that no quality or trait in art can enjoy an independent existence without being dependent on a contrary. When you look at George Segal and Meyer Schapiro its very much a glimpse into the past of Marxist art history, the influence of the Frankfurt School and Schapiro’s assessment that form and content in art were indivisible, which I don’t think is a necessary rule since form is such a flexible concept.But, it could not have existed without the context of Fascism and totalitarianism in general and a way to articulate the “in between” the flows between the spiritual and scientific rationalism at the heart of enlightenment thinking. And, within the overall representation, Schapiro understood expression to include both the formal expression and the content that was expressed. Maybe…
Donald Kuspit ( see link at end) Segal also has Picasso’s great art historical knowledge, as his Portrait of Meyer Schapiro implies. It is a homage to an influential art historian, who famously connected Romanesque and modernist aesthetics, arguing that the latter was an abstract version of the former — a distillation of its formal principles if not its religious subject matter. Like Schapiro, Segal reconciles apparent opposites — many opposites, as his multidimensional sculptural installations make clear. He made coherent sense of an incoherent art scene, reconciling its different styles in singular Gesammtkunstwerken….
Schapiro’s “discovery” was an important one, ans serves to highlight ingenious reinvention over the long history of art in which peculiar juxtapositions such as connecting the kitsch of French Salon art in which culture and “wantonness” can be connected to post modern art works on the same cliched anecdotes
Kuspit: ….Perhaps even more crucially for understanding Segal, Schapiro supported expressively “primitive” Abstract Expressionism when it was experienced as chaotic and absurd, just as he argued for the aesthetic virtues of “primitive” Romanesque art when it was thought to have none compared to sophisticated Gothic art. Kandinsky was the first Abstract Expressionist, and Kandinsky was the leader of the abstract wing — Der Blaue Reiter group — of German Expressionism. Die Brücke was the figurative wing. Taken together, they offer a vision of a “new human reality”: the unconscious (Kandinsky’s “inner necessity”), with all its extremes of feeling (conveyed through textural gesture and intense color, both uprooted from objects and idealized as ends in themselves, that is, “non-objective sensations” and as such “pure”); and socially and self-alienated people, such as those who appear in Kirchner’s street crowds, that is, human beings “distorted,” deracinated, and isolated by modernity. Segal never lost the “admiration for the German Expressionists” — both the abstract and figurative German Expressionists, I would argue — that he had as a student. However more realistic, the figures in Segal’s Walk Don’t Walk, 1976 belong in a Kirchner street scene. His figures are gesturally intense — fraught with unconscious feeling, slowly but surely emerging into consciousness (onto their surface, in the form of texture, as I have argued); and morbidly modern, that is, rootless (like wandering Jews?), as their often peripatetic character suggests, and depressed, as the blackness of many of them implies. They don’t know whether to walk or not walk, to refer to that work again, and even when they walk it is not clear where they are walking to. Even when Segal shows them at home in an intimate space, they seem inwardly homeless and physically isolated. Certainly his crowds do not form a community. They are haunted by meaninglessness even as their unconscious agitates against it….
…Segal’s sculptural installations not only synthesize the contradictory styles of the sixties, but, more basically, Expression and Construction, the “primary contradiction” of modern art as Adorno argues. They are Expressionistic Constructions. They have a Duchampian aspect: found — readymade — human beings, inanimate objects, and junk materials, are not deceptively “assisted” into inexpressive art that can revert back to non-art with the blink of an ironical eye, as they are in Duchamp, but transmuted into immutable expressive art.Read More:http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/8aa/8aa194.htm
The portrait sculpture that is really creepy, however, is the one devoted to Meyer Schapiro (1977). When I first saw this painted sculpture at the Janis Gallery some years ago, I thought it was a really awful piece of work, grotesquely ill-judged in its color and an utter blank as a depiction of its subject’s character. No doubt it was conceived as a tender act of hommage to a much revered art historian who was also a friend and mentor to many living artists, but the unfortunate truth is that Mr. Segal’s sculptural methods have never lent themselves to the art of portraiture. Even where a tolerable likeness is achieved, as it is in this case, the subject ends up looking like another lifeless object. A true portrait of Schapiro might, perhaps, have depicted him at a moment of high animation, on the lecture platform, with arms gesturing and a color slide of a great painting on the screen, and the speaker’s eyes aglow with excitement over both his topic and his own eloquence. What a pity that Meyer Schapiro died before Mr. Segal was able to make him the subject of one of his 1990′s black portrait drawings!Read More:http://www.observer.com/1998/08/looking-for-life-signs-in-george-segals-work/
Only in recent decades has it become clear how effectively he demolished the then-reigning notion that art possessed an independent, transhistorical essence that modern abstraction had extracted from the functional pretexts of the past. The freedom of the Modern artist was, he made plain, as qualified by circumstances as that of the medieval artist had been. And that perception proved to be double-edged, in that to speak at all of degrees of freedom had just as transforming an effect on the blinkered assumptions then reigning in medieval art history.
The prevailing account of Romanesque style had assumed a social order that held the individual in a position determined by birth and prescribed by divine ordinance; the medieval sculptor was assumed to be bound by the requirements of a dogmatic theology handed down from above, from which no deviation was permitted.” But this account was one that a single powerful exception would falsify, and Schapiro found two in Souillac and Silos. The innovative moments in the art of both complexes were bound up with rendering sin and disbelief in the most compelling possible form: here dogma was no guide, so artists, whether monks or lay artisans, had to accommodate emerging secular interests, even dissent against ecclesiastical authority. Far from being obedient to rigidly symmetrical formats, Romanesque artists could create “discoordinate” compositions of fiendish complexity, achieving visual order of a higher level out of intimations of pervasive flux and instability in human existence.Read More:http://l-young.tistory.com/161