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Exit
Exit, 1975
George Segal, American
Plaster, wood, plastic, metal, electric light
8 feet × 8 feet 5 inches × 60 inches (243.8 × 256.5 × 152.4 cm)
Gift of the Friends of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1977
1977-82-1
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Exit

This life-size sculpture seems to capture a moment frozen in time. With one foot in front of the other, a young woman looks ahead and rests her arm on a large bag that she carries over her shoulder. She stands in between a metal gate and a rectangular black-and-orange sign that reads “exit.” The orange glow from the sign illuminates the wall, ground, and the woman’s back. Where is she going? Where has she been? What is her story?

The artist George Segal created many sculptures of ordinary people engaged in everyday activities. Although he often left his figures unpainted, their poses reveal information about their identities and emotions. As Segal stated, “people have attitudes locked up in their bodies. . . . A person may reveal nothing of himself and then, suddenly, make a movement that contains a whole autobiography.”1 As in Exit, he often placed a figure or group of figures in an environment with objects from everyday life. In doing so, Segal provided the characters and setting of a narrative and left it up to viewers to fill in the details.

Segal grew up in the Bronx, New York City, and studied art at the Pratt Institute and New York University. In 1961 he invented a method of producing casts by directly applying medical bandages dipped in water and plaster to a model’s body. By combining a plaster cast made from an actual person with real objects, Segal not only invited viewers to complete the stories in his sculptures, but also to question what is real and what is not—both in life and in art.

Let’s Look

  • Describe the setting of this work of art. What kind of place might this be?
  • Look at the woman’s pose, clothing, and facial expression—what do they tell us about her?
  • Is she walking quickly or slowly?
  • What does the sign say? How does that add to the story?

Let’s Look Again

  • Why do you think the artist used objects from everyday life in this sculpture?
  • Why do you think he left the figure white?

Notes
1. Jan van Der March, Segal, (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1975), 32.

This object is included in Looking to Write, Writing to Look, a teaching kit developed by the Division of Education and is generously supported by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation Inc.
 

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