Three Figures and Four Benches (1979) is an iconic sculpture by renowned Pop artist George Segal, whose figurative installations in steel and plaster explore the human figure as it relates to the surrounding environment. Segal began his career as a painter, but is best known for his hyperreal life-size cast figures for which he pioneered the method of making full-body casts of live models—including himself, friends, and neighbors— made from orthopedic bandages dipped in plaster. Most of Segal’s figures are depicted in monochrome (a single bright color or whitewashed) and minimal detail, creating an eerie yet emotionally resonant appearance.
These figures are accompanied by uncast, appropriated props such as chairs, sections of cars, beds, brick walls, or in the case of this work, park benches. Here, the artist plays with themes of urban sociability and alienation. Two female figures seem engaged in possible dialogue, their attention wandering, while behind them a man sits dejected. The work is interactive, such that visitors relate to the figures as they observe them.
Segal (b. 1924, New York; d. 2000, South Brunswick, New Jersey) has had works installed in public spaces and institutions across the country, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and—perhaps his most well-known work—Gay Liberation (1980) became the first piece of public art dedicated to LGBT rights when it was commissioned in memory of the 1969 Stonewall riots and installed in two editions, one in Christopher Street Park, New York, and the other on the Stanford University campus.