Artist biography

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. In 1960, he created the first of his well-known boxes. 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. Always self-referential, he first secreted a photograph of himself in early boxes and constructions.

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.), 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.

Lucas Samaras (exh. cat., New York, Whitney, 1972) [with commentary by artist]
K. Levin: Lucas Samaras (New York, 1974)
Lucas Samaras: Photo-transformations (exh. cat., intro. C. Glenn, essay A. Glimcher; Long Beach, CA State U., A. Gals, 1975)
Samaras Pastels (exh. cat. by P. Schjeldahl, Denver, CO, A. Mus., 1981)
P. Schjeldahl: Art of our Time: the Saatchi Collection, ii (London, 1984) [pls incl. boxes, photographs, pastels, mirror room and ink-on-paper works]
B. Lifson: Samaras: The Photographs of Lucas Samaras (New York, 1987)
Lucas Samaras: Sketches, Drawings, Doodles and Plans, ed. C. Glenn (New York, 1987)
Lucas Samaras: Objects and Subjects, 1969–1986 (exh. cat. by T. McEvilley, D. Kuspit and R. Smith, Denver, CO, A. Mus., 1988)
Lucas Samaras: Self 1961–1991 (exh. cat., Yokohama, Mus. A., 1991)


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