The work of Lucas Samaras in the Greek exhibition of the 53rd Venice Biennale titled Paraxena (Strange things) brings together three series of photographic and video works produced between 2005 and 2009, juxtaposed with a discrete group of sculptural works from the mid 1960s.

Samaras’ Biennale contribution, is curated by Englishman Matthew Higgs who sets up a conversation across four decades of Lucas Samaras’ practice, establishing a historical context for the recent departures in his work.

Upon entering the pavilion the viewer is confronted by an image of themselves, reflected in the mirrored sculpture Doorway (1966-2007): a scenario that initiates a narrative that runs throughout Paraxena, where the act of being observed and the activity of observing are central concerns.

Samaras debuted his new photographic works from the Nexus series alongside images from the recent Chairs series (2008) and the iMovie’ video works (2005.)

The Chairs and Nexus series originate in digital images taken during the artist’s meditative and introspective meanderings through New York City.

Seen together the images suggest a hallucinatory new urbanism.

The iMovie films take this sense of strangeness, (paraxena) into the artist’s domestic space, recording Samaras’ everyday habits and routines.

These recent works were presented alongside the video installation Ecdysiast and Viewers (2006), in which Samaras filmed the reactions of 24 friends and colleagues (including artists Chuck Close and Jasper Johns) whilst they watched a video self-portrait in which Samaras lays himself bare for the camera.

The frank self-portrayal in Ecdysiast is echoed in a group of sculptures from the Jewels series of the mid 1960s: fragile jewel-encrusted aluminium foil sculptures which represent three extremities of the artist’s body: the head, the groin, and the feet.

Lucas Samaras born 1936, in Kastoria, Macedonia, is widely known for creating a diverse body of work including sculpture, drawings, paintings and film, many of which explore his own image as subject matter.

He combines materials such as beads, chicken wire, clay, fabric, pastel, pencil, pins, plaster, and oil, and has been acknowledged for his experimentation and use of mediums, such as the Polaroid.

In the late early 1960s Samaras participated in a series of happenings with Allan Kaprow, Robert Whitman, and Jim Dine among others.

During this time, he created his first numbered box sculpture, combining elements of sculpture, architecture and painting.

By 1989, he had produced 135 boxes in this series.

Samaras began shooting with the Polaroid 360 in the early 1970s.

The Polaroids gave the artist unlimited creative freedom as he manipulated his photographs using techniques, such as hand-applied ink, and altering the picture surface with his hand or a stylus to move the dye emulsions under the top.

Samaras has unwittingly become one of the most influential Greek contemporary artists. His work in film and  Polaroid impacted on young artists and still does.

An Independent Art Program (June 16 – October 4)