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Eluding historical categorization, the oeuvre of Lucas Samaras is united through its consistent focus on the body and psyche, often emphasizing autobiography. The theme of self-depiction and identity has been a driving force behind his practice, which, at its onset in the early 1960s, advanced the Surrealist idiom, yet also proposed a radical departure from the presiding themes of Abstract Expressionism and Pop art.

Samaras emigrated with his family from Greece to the United States in 1939, settling in West New York, New Jersey. His interest in self-investigation began during this period, when he initiated painting self-portraits from the front and back, using a mirror.

He also gravitated toward the use of pastels, which enabled him to work quickly, while exploring figurative and geometrical forms in rich colors and with luxuriant texture, characteristics that would reoccur throughout his work. His innovation further manifested through his use of the Polaroid SX-70 in 1973 in a melding of self-portraiture and abstraction, created by manipulating the wet-dye emulsions with a stylus or fingertip before the chemicals set. This process progressed with digital art in 1996 when he obtained his first computer and began to experiment with printed texts on typewriter paper.

By 2002, he had acquired a digital camera and the use of Photoshop became an integral component of his practice. These technologies gave way to Photofictions (2003), a series characterized by distorted self-portraits and psychedelic compositions.

Gesturing toward a larger investigation of (self) reflection in his work, found in his mirror rooms, self-portraiture, and use of digital mirror-imaging, Samaras’s oeuvre acts as an extension of his body while underscoring the transformative possibilities of the everyday—a true blurring of art and life.

Image courtesy of Pace Gallery.
Lucas Samaras, Box #86, 1973, mixed media, 9-1/4″ × 12-1/2″ × 15″ (23.5 cm × 31.8 cm × 38.1 cm) © Lucas Samaras