News Retrospective

Retrospective: Allan Kaprow on George Segal, Art, and Life

And other excerpts from our coverage 100, 75, 50, and 25 years ago


While the greater portion of the New York public has seemingly gone mad over the dance known as the “Tango,” the followers of art are now offered an opportunity to also become crazed, over what may best be termed the new “Tango” in art, or, in other words, the manifestations of the “Faddists” or followers of the so-called “new movements” in painting and sculpture, first revealed to the American public at the Armory Show of last year.

— “The ‘Tango’ in Art,” February 7, 1914

Albert Pinkham Ryder, The Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse), ca. 1896-1908, oil on canvas.  COURTESY THE CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART, PURCHASE FROM THE J. H. WADE FUND.

Albert Pinkham Ryder, The Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse), ca. 1896-1908, oil on canvas.



Through this one development of Expressionism in the direction of geometric painting as stressed in this section of the exhibit, it is readily seen how truly international the Expressionist psychology really is. It is not in the province of any single nation, nor is it the province of any single generation on period. For example, the superb Death on a Pale Horse, by Albert Pinkham Ryder, is definitely Expressionistic in its animation of the sky, the sharpness of the contrast of its evocative shapes and values, and in the general emotional quality given by its moody color.

— “Expressionism Exhibition: Its Origins and Post-War Development Shown at Cleveland,” by William M. Milliken, February 11, 1939


George Segal’s “presences” (I do not know whether I should call his assemblings of plaster people and real objects “sculptures” or “environments”) emerge precisely when Abstract-Expressionism has lost the sharp focus of its issues. Their somber and massive corporeality affects us doubly because they confront us against an artistic background of violent gestures and intangible veils of colored light. Directly, they cause us to question once again the nature of art (is it an abstraction or a resemblance?) and, since these figures with their ready-mades are impressions or objects taken from life, they force us to ask further whether life is more real than art…

It is a fact that there are many professional artists (including this writer) who respond as powerfully to some aspect of nature or civilization outside of a literal art product (a craggy landscape, or an iron foundry in full blast, for instance) as they do to an acknowledged masterpiece in a museum. The assumed difference between emotion and esthetic emotion seems impossible to determine and tiresomely academic.

— “Segal’s Vital Mummies,” by Allan Kaprow, February 1964


Queens, New York, building superintendent Benjamin Pagan inadvertently found himself in agreement with early critics of Edouard Manet when he dismissed the artist’s Bouquet of Peonies (1880) as unworthy of hanging in his basement gallery alongside a paint-by-numbers dog and two Picasso reproductions.

Pagan didn’t know that the floral still life wrapped in a pink blanket and stashed behind a dryer in his building’s laundry room was the painting valued at over $1 million that had just been stolen from Long Island’s Heckscher Museum.

— “Unfit for Hanging,” by Robin Cembalest, February 1989

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