Magazine article Artforum International

Lucas Samaras: Pacewildenstein (Artist)

Magazine article Artforum International

Lucas Samaras: Pacewildenstein (Artist)

Article excerpt

The first thought that came into my head at the Lucas Samaras exhibition at PaceWildenstein uptown last November was, "Why isn't he having this retrospective in a New York museum?" After all, the last Gotham-grown one for him was way back in 1972, at the Whitney; the one after that was organized way out in Denver in 1988, and the most recent, in 1991, took place in Japan. Given the conventional appreciation of Samaras as our best dissenting stylistic loner during the heyday of Minimalism, you'd think that someone other than the artist's gallery - as prestigious as it may be - would have staged this show.

Samaras' problem may have something to do with the two ways you can regard him (in terms of recent art history, at least) as a singular artist. The more attractive interpretation sees Samaras essentially as an outsider artist, with just enough slickness to attract the attention of Arne Glimcher. You know, the magnetic animal just barely couth enough to put on a tux and make a whole cocktail party swoon because he's so, well, different. The somewhat less attractive view (toward which I am inclined) sees an adroit, thoroughly art-world-educated artist with just enough native eccentricity and capriciousness to keep him from getting bogged down in a school, or movement. Samaras' biography certainly bears out this interpretation: only twelve years old when he came to America from Macedonia, he did four years as a student at Rutgers, landed a 1959 solo show at the (pardon the pun) happenin' Reuben Gallery at age twenty-three, and went back for a stint at Columbia that got him a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for art history. We're talking erudition and caginess here, not naive genius.

All of which, of course, has little or nothing to do with how good the work is. Samaras' famously variegated art - paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, boxes, slanting chairs, encrusted objects - reveals his artistic talent to be a collection of dexterities. He's a whiz at pastel. He can do colored-pencil Surrealism as well as any underground comics cover artist. His delicate assemblage has the touch of one who can put ships in bottles. Incidentally, his quasi-performance-art photography displays an amazing body for a guy who's sixty. (It's neither collapsing nor obsessively gym-buffed, just supple.) Most of these talents converge, express or implied, in his Polaroid "Photo-Transformations," 1973-76, the subject of the simultaneous show at PaceWildenstein downtown. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.