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 Lucas Samaras  (1936 - )

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: multi-media, mod figure, collage-assemblage, happenings

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Lucas Samaras
An example of work by Lucas Samaras
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Working in mulit-medias and multi modernist styles, Lucas Samaras is both artist and theoretician who regards his life as an art object.  In his work, he has combined Performance Art, and many forms of abstraction including post-Dadaism, post-Surrealism, and post-Abstract Expressionism.  In 1959, Samaras took part in the earliest "Happenings" led by Allan Kaprow, in which the audience participated with the artist in disconnected-seeming events. Kaprow described a "Happening" as an "assemblage of events" (Atkins 103)

Samaras has created assemblage figures and textured boxes from pins, nails, screws, cloth and plaster as well as erotic-seeming forms from wood, pins and rope.  Of these objects Samaras has said that he felt he could rescue ruined and useless things and give them dignity.  He often inserts photos of himself, and as his career has progressed. he has focused increasingly on himself as a subject.  In 1965, he made a mirrored room, which made it easier to observe himself.  1969, he made a film titled "Self".  The persistent use of himself as a subject has led one critic to remark that "Samaras's almost obsessional self-observation extends past narcissism toward a physical understanding of himself." (Getty)

Samaras was born in Kastoria, Greece in 1936, and came to America in 1948 when he was twelve years old.  From 1955 to 1959, he attended Rutgers University and there met George Segal, the sculptor who used white plaster, and studied with Allan Kaprow and Robert Whitman, both pioneers of "Happenings".  Between 1959 and 1962, Samaras studied art history at Columbia University.

Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Artists
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
Robert Atkins, Art Speak

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries (Artists, R-Z):
Born in Kastoria, Macedonia, in Greece, Lucas Samaras immigrated to the United States as a teenager.  He studied at Rutgers University with George Segal and Alan Kaprow, and participated in Kaprow's Happenings.

Samaras began working in assemblage in his twenties, transforming ordinary objects with complex ornament.  His work was recognized early; he was included in the Museum of Modern Art's "Art of the Assemblage" in 1961.  At that time, mid-size boxes came to dominate Samaras' serial constructions, serving as ground and frame for his uncanny collection and arrangement of objects.  He has explored the peculiar shape of the box?three-dimensional and flat, intimate and exposed, alluring and threatening?throughout his career.  He explains the appeal of the theme: "We live in boxes, see and eat with boxes, travel in boxes. . . . Box is a lovely principle that carries a lot of symbolic beans."

Frequently encrusted with glittering ornament, Samaras' boxes have an immediate tactile appeal.  But the invitation to touch is thwarted by the materials he chooses: pins, razors, and tacks are simultaneously brilliant and dangerous.  Samaras also employs yarn, pencils, mirrors, and?in keeping with an oeuvre that is consistently self-referential?photographs of himself.  The boxes become like reliquaries in which the objects possess a talismanic power for the artist.

During his prolific career, Samaras has also explored self-representation and investigated his own private psychic realm in his Auto-Polaroids and Photo-Transformations, reconstructed room environments, and paintings of violence and chaos, among other projects.  He has exhibited widely and frequently and was the subject of a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2003.

Copyright 2008 Hollis Taggart Galleries

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