ARCHIVE: Something for Everyman


George Segal photographing Donald Lokuta (who, seen reflected in mirror, is in turn photographing Segal) at the Golden Bell Diner in Freehold, 1989 — included in a major exhibit of work by both Segal and Lokuta at the Monmouth Museum. (all photos courtesy of Donald Lokuta)

(First published on Red Bank oRBit February 18, 2010)

“I made up my mind that daily life is extraordinary.”

A handful of well-chosen words from a man who famously let a series of stony, silent figures become his most eloquent mouthpiece. At the time of his passing almost ten years ago, George Segal was regarded as America’s premier sculptor, an experimenter who emerged from the Pop Art school of Warhol and Lichtenstein to become a rumpled eminence whose work adorned university campuses, permanent collections, national memorials.

Even if you’ve never visited an art museum, you’ve seen his somber, monochromatic life-size figures in places like the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the National Mall in DC. Cast from live models using plaster-soaked bandages — a technique he first tried out on himself in the 1950s and perfected over the next decade — his people go about their business like ghosts; averting their faces from each other and waiting for things that never seem to arrive.

Underlying the melancholy of the mundane in Segal’s best known work is a subtle celebration — a celebration of the “everyman” and the queued-up world he/she inhabits. The artist, who lived most of his days on a Middlesex County farm, was infinitely more likely to be found occupying a booth at a Route 9 diner than a roped-off VIP area at Studio 54; walking a then-desolate Asbury Park boardwalk instead of summering in the Hamptons.

Beginning next weekend and continuing into the middle of April, the Monmouth Museum is the setting for George Segal Everyman: Sculpture, Paintings & Drawings — a major milestone for the nonprofit facility (located on the Lincroft campus of Brookdale Community College) and an event that’s scheduled to include the participation of some special guests.

segallokutasmallDonald Lokuta is pictured at right in a SELF-PORTRAIT WITH GS, snapped on what was then a pretty quiet Asbury Park boardwalk in 1990. Is it just us, or do these two gentlemen look remarkably like each other?

Opening concurrent with the Segal installation (with a reception slated for next Sunday, February 28 at 3pm) is an exhibit entitled George Segal in Focus: Photography by Donald Lokuta. A friend of Segal’s for many years, the Union-based Lokuta was granted unprecedented access to the artist at work, home and play — documenting Segal’s craftsmanship and inspiration in some 15,000 images, like some shutterbug Boswell, along with serving as an assistant and even a model for one of the artist’s best known sculptures, Depression Breadline.

Enthusiasts can get a sneak peek at the Lokuta display prior to next weekend’s official opening, as the photographer’s collected images will be visible at the Museum starting this Sunday, February 21. Lokuta himself will be among the guests — along with Segal’s daughter Rena and a trio of friends (Barbara GoldfarbSusan KutliroffRobert Yoskowitz) who also served as cast-sculpture models — for a special Preview Party and Benefit next Saturday, February 27 at 5pm. A $65 ticket (proceeds to benefit the Museum and its programs) includes a guided tour and discussion with the guests, along with “libations and light fare.”

Admission to the February 28 afternoon reception is free, and the Segal exhibits run through Sunday, April 11 on normal museum schedule and admission policy. But even that’s not the end of it — April 11 is also the date of an exclusive, guided George Segal Studio Tour, hosted by Rena Segal and Donald Lokuta and offering an opportunity to view the artist’s workplace; a site that’s never been open to the public. A $200 ticket gets the guided tour, “motorcoach” transportation (departs the museum at 10am; returns 5pm) and lunch at the five-star New Brunswick restaurant Daryl Wine Bar. Call Julia Fiorino at (732)747-2266 for reservations (to the Preview Party or the Studio Tour) and additional information.