If I paraphrase a famous ad, the world is divided into two types of people – those who know and love Lucas Samaras and those who are about to meet him, see his art and become his fans. If you are from the first ones, then there is no point in telling you that his is one of the most prominent alive authors of installations. If you are from the second, I will help you introduce him to you.
Actually, I am sure that you have seen at least one of his creations. Do you remember the famous Oliver Stone’s film “Wallstreet”? Michael Douglas won an Oscar for best male performance in it and Charlie Sheen became famous because of it. Well, this film was shot from beginning till end among Lucas Samara’s creations. This year, the Greek Ministry of Culture decided to assign Samaras the presentation of Greece on the 53rd International Contemporary Art biennale in Venice. The artist already started preparing his “Paraxena” (Strangeness – translation from Greek) installation, with which he will mark his 50 year presence on the global art scene.
Paraxena is a series of relatively new works of the artist, made between 2005 and 2009, which are pretty unknown to the European public and are named Nexus, Chairs, iMovies. They take turns with creations, which symbolize key stages of the author’s development. All of them will be accompanied by a video installation named Ecdysiast and Viewers, in which he has filmed the reactions of his friends and colleagues, while they were watching the video where he goes out naked. Before Paraxena, the visitor of the Greek pavilion will see a big mirror installation with a picture of Lucas Samaras, which is naturally named Doorway.
“I offered Samaras for the first time in 1994. I am glad that 15 years later the Greek Ministry of Culture heard me and decided to send to Venice one of the most significant people in US art today,” remembers art historian Manos Stefanidis. Lucas Samaras is one of those rare type of talented people, who dominate the world art stage from the moment they step on it remain on it forever.
He was born in the small city Kastoria in Northern Greece in 1936 and in 1948 he leaves for the US. It is a weird coincidence that the same year the narrative expressionism has it premiere in the US. In 1955, Samaras graduates high school, accepts US citizenship and together with it a scholarship for Rutgers College, where some of his teachers are Alan Kaprov and George Segal. Lucas Samaras has always said that he created his first significant work in 1956 and managed to sell it for $25. In 1958, the happening is born in the US and the painter decides to participate in it, which was organized by his teacher Alan Kaprov.
In just 3 years, big galleries start buying his art – MoMa in New York, the Contemporary Art museums in L.A. and San Francisco, Tate gallery in London, the National Art Gallery in Athens. In 1971 the Polaroid Company makes him a gift – an automatic photo camera for experimental work, with which the painter shoots his series “Photo transformations.” Photography becomes a fixed part of the author’s multimedia installations. Following, there are exhibitions all over the world.
In 1996 Lucas Samaras buys his first computer and starts experimenting with himself. He losses 15 kilos and starts to study how body changes, when it gets older. In 2002, digital photography enters his art. He starts using Adobe Photoshop and Quick Time frequently. Technology becomes a fixed part of his creations.
When he was asked where art is going, Lucas Samaras answers: “What kind of question is this! If I knew where it is going I would be there already!”