Barnet/Segal: It Runs in the Family

The talents of second generation artists, Peter Barnet and Rena Segal—the son and daughter of famed contemporary artists Will Barnet and George Segal—are the focus of Barnet/Segal: It Runs in the Family, an art exhibition at Montclair State University’s George Segal Gallery, March 6 to April 14, 2012. Through 50 paintings equally divided between the two artists, this exhibition explores the unique niche each has found as the offspring of a famous artist while also presenting a pairing of painters whose works are complimentary in color, media, and subject choice.

Barnet/Segal: It Runs in the Family was the inspiration of Teresa Rodriguez, director of the George Segal Art Gallery. “I was curious about the challenges artists faced being in the shadow of famous parents,” she says. “In Peter and Rena I saw two artists who each found a way to distinguished themselves as artists in their own right.”

Mimi Weinberg, an adjunct professor of art at Montclair State, served as guest curator for the exhibition.

Segal believes her early childhood years spent watching her father paint blossomed into her own artistic calling. “I went into the family business,” she jokes.

Many of Segal’s paintings are boldly colored landscapes and still lifes, while Barnet’s tend to portray domestic scenes with a dog as the central figure. “I do love dogs. I’ve been painting them for 40 years. I’m aware that the dogs are probably a metaphor for myself and for human beings in general,” he explains.

Barnet’s paintings also feature vivid colors, differing from the more restrained palette of his father, although both seek to convey the inherent flatness of painting in their work.

Segal’s father, who died in 2000 at the age of 75, is best known for his ghostly-white figurative sculptures, seven of which can be seen in front of College Hall in his Street Crossing installation. His daughter was drawn to landscapes because of their play of light and color; the objects in her paintings are also meaningful to her. “A wine bottle or a vase, each has its own story,” she says.

Both say their fathers encouraged them to pursue their passion in art and to develop their own individual style. “My father is probably my greatest fan,” says Barnet, a professor of art and design at Montclair State. At 101 years old, Will Barnet continues to paint.

Growing up as the child of a famous artist had more advantages than the disadvantage of being compared with one’s parent, they maintain. “There were a lot of ups for me. You can get doors opened, but you feel you have to work harder to stand on your own feet,” says Segal. Adds Barnet: “Both my mother and father were painters and I felt very privileged to have grown up in the art world. I took it for granted that I could be a painter.”

A symposium at the Gallery on March 22 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 p.m. further explores the second generation theme with a panel that, besides Segal and Barnet, includes Peter Gallagher, who took over drawing the Heathcliff comic strip from his uncle, George Gately, and Miles Evans, son of jazz musician Gil Evans.

Gallery hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Thursday from 12:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Closed on Sunday and Monday.