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Lucas Samaras (American, born Greece 1936)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American painter, sculptor and photographer of Greek birth. He emigrated to West New York, NJ, in 1948 and graduated from Rutgers University in 1959. He participated in the earliest Happenings, and he studied art history with Meyer Schapiro (b 1904) and acting at the Stella Adler Studio Theater. In 1960, he created the first of his well-known boxes, for example Box No. 3, 1962–1963 (New York, Whitney). His choice of media ranged from the sensuous to the menacing, and he preferred opulent textures and colours. Tacks, pins and shards of glass encrusted such early works as Book #4 (Dante’s Inferno) (1962; New York, MOMA). Always self-referential, he first secreted a photograph of himself in early boxes and constructions. On moving to New York in 1964 he created another unconventional self-portrait: a gallery installation, Room, inspired by his claustrophobic New Jersey bedroom.

From 1969 Samaras began to produce photographs using his body as subject and metaphor in a series entitled Autopolaroids (Samaras Album, 1971), which was followed by manipulated Polaroid Phototransformations (London, Saatchi priv. col., see Schjeldahl, 1984, nos 38–43), 8×10 colour photos entitled Sittings (1981; see Lifson, pp. 95–115) and the Collage Panoramas of the early 1980s (see Lifson, pp. 149–65). He continued to transform everyday items such as scissors, eyeglasses and chairs, reinventing them and always widening the range of his explorations in the process. His giant pieced-fabric Reconstructions (1977–8), for example Reconstruction ®20 (1977; Denver, CO, A. Mus.), celebrate Byzantine pattern and colour, and in 1981 he turned to gold- and silver-plated bronze, as in Sculpture Table (1981; London, Saatchi priv. col., see Schjeldahl, 1984, no. 46). An exhibition of 1981 comprised radiant pastels, and his sketchbook, Lucas Samaras: Sketches, Drawings, Doodles and Plans (1986), revealed the rich diversity of his work on paper. In 1988–9 a major retrospective exhibition, surveying his work in all media, travelled to six American museums.

Constance W. Glenn
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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