A preeminent sculptor of American Pop Art, along with Claes Oldenberg, George Segal fixed his gaze on the ordinary consumers of the 1960s through his pioneering use of plaster bandages. Revealing an enduring fascination with the depiction of movement, George Segal's The Girl on the Flying Trapeze gracefully emphasizes of a moment of arrested action and delicate balance. While often his figures are dignified, solemn, and seem to resist the temptation to engage in frivolous activity, certain works, such as this, convey an exhilarating sense of action paired with concentrated tension. Here space is looped, laced, penetrated and dissolved-the effect on the spectator, weary from a day of shopping or sitting in an office often explored in Segal's tableaux. With an interest in circus figures-Segal's tightrope walkers and trapeze artists-with their determined energy to render themselves weightless by their gravity defying acts.
Exploiting the contrast between the animate and the inanimate, much of Segal's work explores the depths of human emotion as expressed through the nuances of an individual's body language. Like Francis Bacon or Lucian Freud, Segal continually collaborates with the same friends and relatives, finding that his work is wholly "dependent on the sensitivity and response of the person posing." "I discovered," he once commented, "that ordinary human beings with no great pretensions of being handsome were somehow singing and beautiful in their rhythms. The people that I prefer to use again and again are friends with a very lively mental life. I discovered that I had to totally respect the entity of a specific human being, and its whole other set of insights, a whole other set of attitudes. It's a different idea of beauty and it has to do with the gift of life, the gift of consciousness, the gift of a mental life" (quoted in P. Tuchman, George Segal, New York, 1983, p. 109). Perpetually mesmerizing, Segal's process reveals a certain fascination to encapsulate a moment of life.
A direct predecessor of Segal's The Dancers, housed in The Whitney Museum of American Art in and the Philip Morris, Inc. Sculpture Court in New York, which infuses elements of Henri Matisse's The Dance with Segal's own introspectiveness, Girl on the Flying Trapeze was too created for an art world audience. Reminiscent of Georges Seurat's desolate circus scenes or Edgar Degas' Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando, The Girl on the Flying Trapeze is an expression of the fascinations and delights of the artist's private life. Drawing from the fanfare of Impressionist art, Segal's influence can be traced through many generations of figurative sculpture--from Duane Hanson to Charles Ray and Robert Gober.