Michelle Segre by Huma Bhabha

BOMB 115 Spring 2011
115 20Cover

Discover MFA Programs in Art and Writing

BOMB Studio Visit: Michelle Segre from BOMB Magazine on Vimeo.

One of the bonuses of being friends with an artist for an extended period of time is that gradually, after countless openings, studio visits, and long conversations, you become somewhat of an expert on that person’s work. I have been fortunate to have such a relationship with Michelle Segre and her work—from collages of gangs of legs cut from comic book pages, gnawed alien-bone mobiles, and giant pieces of moldy bread and larger-than-life mushrooms recalling the soft sculptures of Claes Oldenburg, right up to her current work. Her recent sculptures retain the core theme of literally digesting Pop art (food and digestion are timeless themes in Segre’s work) while introducing a new, seemingly raw, but actually quite sophisticated, deconstruction of its cartoon narrative.

Godzeye1 Body

Godzeye, 2011, metal, plastic, lace, yarn, pebbles, papier-mâché, string, plaster, and mailbox, 101 × 40 × 15”.

This new direction approaches the material from a childlike point of view that goes beyond the obvious gigantism of much academic Pop art in that it also has a seemingly childlike playfulness on a conceptual level. The cat-and-mouse narrative of cheese, traps, and holes is splattered into postmodern DNA samples. Where Segre’s history begins remains a mystery—the work of Nancy Graves provides a clue, Franz West another. Plaster and mesh wormholes, as imagined by the architect Antoni Gaudí, lead to countless art-historical dimensions.

Untitled Metaltail 1 Body

Untitled, 2011, metal, papier-mâché, modeling clay, acrylic, plastic, pebbles, rock, string, and clay, 59 × 40 × 37”.

Untitled Bone 2 Body

Untitled, 2011, Hydrocal, metal, foam, acrylic, modeling clay, plaster, enamel, beeswax, and papier-mâché, 82 × 44 × 67”.

The wax, which was predominant in Segre’s work till 2008, has now been peeled away and discarded like old, burnt skin to reveal what lies beneath, forgotten broken relics of her own past work, which, in one piece, take the form of an enormous bone ready for its American Idolsolo. The geometric patterns that appear and disappear like rashes refer to her older drawings that influence the sculptural forms. Segre’s recent sculptures function as enlarged models of the brain at work based on superstition rather than on science. Planets and galaxies symbolize ideas that are linked together by webs combining hippie and spiritual craft with industrial craft, as embodied in the metal mesh, which was once completely covered in wax. The importance of the absence of the wax cannot be emphasized enough, because it is through this deletion of material that the almost surrealist, prop-like function is replaced by a more personal language. Idealized labor connects plaster thought balloons surrounding a satellite dish transmitting brain activity from a Stone Age world’s fairground of the mind. Self-portraits of a cranial circulatory system … Is this what Segre’s sounds like? Are these new sculptures instruments that are played by looking? Is it a child’s elementary-school science project made with help from tripping parents? The fact that there is no quick answer to the meaning of her work is what keeps you going back to look again and always finding a new clue that makes the mystery only more unsolvable.

Segre 1 Final Body

Synapse, 2011, metal, papier-mâché, plaster, foam, plastic, modeling clay, pebbles, and string, 59 × 70 × 64”. Images courtesy of Michelle Segre and Derek Eller Gallery.

Huma Bhabha was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and currently lives and works in Poughkeepsie, New York. She was included in the 2010 Whitney Biennial and participated in an exhibition of sculpture at City Hall Park in New York, organized by the Public Art Fund.

BOMB Specific by Huma Bhabha Jason Fox
115 Bhabha 01 Body
Tamara Zahaykevich by B. Wurtz
4 Harry Goody Body

Mies van der Rohe’s statement “God is in the details” came to mind recently as I was thinking about Tamara Zahaykevich’s work.

Rochelle Feinstein by Justin Lieberman
Theestateofrochelle Final Body

Feinstein talks with fellow painter Lieberman about The Estate of Rochelle F., a pre-posthumous, post-humorous painting project for which she utilized only materials already present in her studio.

Joe Zucker by Chuck Close
Zucker01 Body

“I have diversity in my work, but I also have control of it. I rarely paint things that I like.”

Originally published in

BOMB 115, Spring 2011

Featuring interviews with Joe Fyfe, Katharina Grosse, Luis Camnitzer, Jim Shepard, Sebastián Silva, Thomas Pletzinger, Robert Wyatt, and Sibyl Kempson.

Read the issue
115 20Cover