American Treasures: Donated George Segal Artwork to Be on Permanent Public Display on Campus

Restaurant Scene by George Segal, Rutgers University–Camden Welcome Center

By Tom McLaughlin

Beginning this fall, the new Welcome Center at Rutgers University–Camden will host guests of all ages – including countless prospective students and their families – offering a gateway for all that the university has to offer.

Upon arriving, guests will get an early introduction to the impressive art collection that defines Rutgers–Camden as a premier South Jersey destination for the arts, thanks to the addition of a newly installed work of eminent American sculptor George Segal.

“Restaurant Scene” is now on display in the reception area of the center, which is located at 330 Cooper Street on the Rutgers–Camden campus, and visible 24/7 to Cooper Street pedestrians through a floor-to-ceiling corner window. The sculptural tableau consists of a diner table and chair, and a coat rack with a hanging coat, embodying Segal’s predilection for Jersey diners. Unusually for a Segal sculpture, there is no figure present, as if the patron had left; Segal was constantly experimenting with his humanistic expression.

The piece is one of 13 works created by Segal, who earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Rutgers University in 1963 and an honorary doctorate in 1970, and donated to Rutgers–Camden by the George Segal Foundation last fall.

“This is a significant donation to our permanent collection,” says Cyril Reade, director of the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts. “Rutgers–Camden is honoring the commitment to the Segal Foundation to make these works continuously available to the Rutgers community and to all visitors to the campus.”

Another of Segal’s sculptural works, “Parking Garage,” will be installed this summer in the lobby of the Paul Robeson Library on the Rutgers–Camden campus. The piece includes two plaster cast figures – prime examples of the signature body casts for which Segal is best known – standing in front of a large photograph of a parking garage taken by the artist and mounted on a wall behind the figures.

A series of Segal’s drawings will be displayed nearby in the lounge area of the library. Working from his photographs of his mother, his wife, and his friends, the artist created large black-and-white portraits that resemble Rembrandt etchings and are illuminated by the darkness and the light of Renaissance chiaroscuro technique.

Four of the five plaster casts included in the donation will be installed on the second floor of the nearly completed Nursing and Science Building, located at the corner of Fifth and Federal Streets. The casts are partial casts of the human body that Segal characteristically produced with his signature plaster bandages. Steeped in art historical traditions, Segal created his own versions of human sculptural fragments that characterize the collection of ancient civilizations, such as Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

Segal is regarded as one of America’s most respected and popular 20th century artists, best known for his life-size plaster sculptures of ordinary people doing ordinary things, which he created by covering friends and relatives with plaster-soaked surgical bandages.

In fall 2016, as part of Rutgers 250, a yearlong celebration of Rutgers University’s 250th anniversary, the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts hosted a free, public exhibition of Segal’s works in the Stedman Gallery. The George Segal Foundation marked the occasion by donating the works to Rutgers–Camden’s permanent collection.

For more information on the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts, visit rcca.camden.rutgers.edu or contact Nancy Maguire at 856-225-6245.

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