Lucas Samaras (b. 1936, Macedonia, Greece) immigrated to West New York, N.J., in 1948. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1959 with a degree in Art and shortly thereafter studied briefly under Meyer Shapiro in the Graduate Department of Art History at Columbia University. In the late 1950s and early 1960s Samaras also studied acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York City.
Considered a pioneer in the field of photography, Samaras is also widely recognized for his inventive use of such diverse materials as acrylic and oil paints, pastels, pencil, ink, aluminum, bronze, clay, Cor-Ten steel, fabric, film, precious metals and stones, plaster, wire, razor blades and pins. He first began using a Polaroid 360 camera in 1969 making his “AutoPolaroids”; the majority of the works from this first series are self-portraits. In 1973 the Polaroid Corporation gave Samaras an SX-70 camera for experimentation and Samaras began another series of pictures referred to as “Photo-Transformations.” It was at this time that he began to manipulate the emulsions in the Polaroids to alter the final image. In 1978 Samaras used an ARCA-SWISS camera and 8 x 10 Polacolor film to create three new series of photographs – “Figures,” “Still Lifes,” and “Sittings” - containing autobiographical elements. Samaras’s single foray into film resulted in Self, a 23-minute 16mm film that premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in 1969. His more recent work revisits the moving image via digital video, as well as still images shown on computer monitors. Samaras continues to work with digitally manipulated images in his newest photographic series, “NYC Chairs” (2007-08).
Samaras’s work has been exhibited throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. His first retrospective was organized in 1971 by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and highlighted his sculptural box creations. Since that time Samaras has had major solo exhibitions, including two traveling retrospectives organized by the Denver Art Museum: “Samaras Pastels” (1981-83) and “Lucas Samaras: Objects and Subjects 1969-1986” (1988-89). In 1983 the Polaroid International Collection, Cambridge, organized “Polaroid Photographs 1969-1983” which opened at the Centre George Pompidou, Paris, and traveled to the International Center of Photography, New York, and the Serpentine Gallery, London. Eight years later, the Yokohama Museum of Art mounted “Lucas Samaras - Self: 1961-1991,” which was subsequently shown at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art. Recently, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, organized “Unrepentant Ego: The Self-Portraits of Lucas Samaras” (2003-04), and “Lucas Samaras,” organized by the J.F. Costopoulos Foundation, was seen at the National Gallery, Athens (2005).
Samaras received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship in 1959. He has taught at Yale University and Brooklyn College, and has lectured abroad under the auspices of the United States Information Agency.
Samaras’s work belongs to numerous collections worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Tate Gallery, London; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Monographs of Samaras’s work include Lucas Samaras’ Boxes (1971); Lucas Samaras: Photo-Transformations (1975); Lucas Samaras: The Pastels (1981); Lucas Samaras: Polaroid Photographs 1969-1983 (1983); Lucas Samaras: Objects and Subjects, 1969-1986 (1988); Lucas Samaras – Self: 1961-1991 (1991); and Unrepentant Ego: The Self-Portraits of Lucas Samaras (2003).
Samaras lives and works in New York City.