Peder Lund

Lucas Samaras

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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.

In Samaras's work, there is a fusion between art and life, that is represented without veils. Almost all of his artistic career is introspective, autobiographical, and self-referential: from the time of his film Self (1969); his Autopolaroids (1970-71); his Photo-Transformations (1973-76); and his Sittings (1980), the presence of the artist is the leitmotif of his work. Samaras's self-involvement and eclectic output have made him an unusually elusive figure despite his fame, however, his work was and continues to be vastly influential to artists like Yayoi Kusama, Carl Andre, Franz West, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Since the tumultuous 1960s, when artists as disparate as Warhol and Robert Smithson helped broaden the boundaries of art by challenging its accepted hierarchies, the medium in which an artist chooses to work has seemed less important than what that artist makes of it. But while many artists of the last 50 years, from Robert Rauschenberg to Sherrie Levine, have worked in several mediums during their careers, Samaras is an extreme example of the contemporary tendency to play in many fields of expression at once. The riotous multiplicity of means he uses is not inconsequential, nor is it accidental. ''For Samaras, to be modern means to be hybrid: to recognize that there is no privileged style or medium among the many that constitute the affluence of modern art,'' the American art critic Donald Kuspit wrote in one of three essays found in the catalogue for the 1988 exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art, titled Lucas Samaras: Objects and Subjects, 1969-1986.

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.