Lucas Samaras (b. 1936, Kastoria, Macedonia, Greece), the vastly productive sculptor, photographer, painter, filmmaker, writer and performance artist has worked in such diverse materials as Polaroid film, acrylic and oil paint, pastel, aluminium, bronze, clay, fabric, precious metals and stones, razor blades and pins. Across this large variety of media he has mastered to maintain a distinctively characteristic stylistic expression over the past six decades, regardless of contemporaneous artistic tendencies.
Samaras refers to his pastels as “coloured dust”, and has introduced them serially throughout his career. In the 1960s, he completed several compositions in one sitting and drew fantasy still-lives, close-ups of body parts, domestic interiors, couples and hermaphroditic nudes. He then returned to the medium in 1974 and again in 1981, when he drew more than 200 self-portraits. The pastels are psychologically charged and demonstrate the importance of Samaras’ own body and mind in his art. He defamiliarises objects and depictions of himself almost obsessively, and subject matter and material are meticulously presented as dual and equally important facets of the artwork. Theatricality is consistent in Samaras’s
oeuvre – the viewer remains a voyeur of scenes that are strictly under the artist’s control.
Lucas Samaras was born in Kastoria in Greece and immigrated to New Jersey with his family in 1948. He studied under Allan Kaprow at Rutgers University and Meyer Schapiro at Columbia University, and became a key figure in the Happenings in New York in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. Samaras has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, Chicago; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo. His work has been represented at three editions of Documenta (1968, 1972, 1977); the Whitney Annual Exhibition (1965, 1968, 1970); and at the 1980 Venice Biennale. He represented Greece at the Venice Biennale in 2009. Samaras’ work is included in more than forty public collections worldwide, including Art Institute of Chicago; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Gallery, London; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Samaras lives and works in New York.