About This Artwork

George Segal
American, 1924-2000

The Truck, 1966

Metal, plaster, glass, wood, plastic, 16mm color film, silent, transferred to digital video (projection), 2 min 54 sec loop
167.6 x 558.8 x 152.4 cm (66 x 220 x 60 in.)

Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Purchase Prize Fund, 1966.336

In the 1960s, when the Abstract Expressionist and Pop Art movements were trans-forming artists’ working methods, George Segal explored the long-established genre of figurative sculpture. He created life-size human figures using cloth strips dipped in wet plaster and displayed the rough, unpainted casts as his finished product. Segal often placed his sculptural forms within a larger tableau of commercially made objects in order to create active, eerily inhabited spaces. Purchased in 1966, The Truck was the Art Institute’s first acquisition to incorporate a moving-image element. The artist combined the front of a red Ford F-Series pickup; one of his signature cast-plaster figures as the driver; and the film Highway at Night (projected on the truck’s windshield, in a continuous loop) to create what is now commonly referred to as an environmental sculpture. While today’s audiences for contemporary art are used to having disparate visual elements presented to them in this way, Segal’s early work was truly groundbreaking. The same year The Truck was acquired, it won first prize in the museum’s Sixty-Eighth American Exhibition. This display, curator A. James Speyer explained in the catalogue, “shows the work of twenty artists, each with a kind of complete, individual exhibit rather than a single, specific painting or sculpture. . . . All these exhibits share a physical insistence and vital presence which assumes environmental stature.” An article on the show in Time captures both the novelty of The Truck in 1966 and something of what it is like to experience it even now:

"The runaway hit of the show was easily Segal’s creation, The Truck. It consisted of the actual cab of a red panel truck that Segal had found in a junkyard. Inside, the odometer read 85,723, the generator and oil-pressure gauges glowed red in the dashboard. In the driver’s seat was an alert, life-size white plaster driver, both hands on the wheel, right foot hovering over the accelerator. As viewers looked over his shoulders at the windshield, they shared a cinematic ride through city streets, as lights, cars, and bright neon signs whizzed by. To bring off the joy ride, Segal had rigged a small film projector and mirror arrangement to the right of the cab, which beamed the movie onto the truck’s frosted windshield. Watching it, one housewife confided: 'That’s the way my husband drives…' Juror Martin Friedman, director of Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center, put it another way: 'I found it very moving. Actually . . . by treating the man almost as a ghost, as a calcified figure, Segal presents you with reality, then questions the existence of reality.'" One of Segal’s most important early works, The Truck helped to change sculpture by encompassing its viewers—allowing them to share an experience over a period of time—and by blurring the once-steadfast boundaries between life and art.




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