Selected in conjunction with the artist, the exhibition features sixty-eight Polaroid photographs from Lucas Samaras’s widely celebrated Photo-Transformation series. Executed between 1973-76, these works have been described as “…the most uncanny, original representations of the self – especially the artist’s self, in all its glory and suffering (self-glorifying suffering?) – in art history.”
Samaras was already known as a sculptor, painter, and performance artist when he began experimenting with photography. His first series of photographs, the AutoPolaroids (1969-71), were shot with a Polaroid 360 camera. Samaras said he was attracted to the Polaroid medium because it allowed him to be self-sufficient and gave him the freedom to be “my own critic, my own exciter, my own director, my own audience.”
In 1973, the Polaroid Corporation gave Samaras an SX-70 – the then newly invented camera, which instantly produced unique, 3 1/8 x 3 1/16-inch, color images framed with a wide white tab on the bottom. With his new camera, Samaras continued to utilize the front of camera effects he had refined in his previous AutoPolaroid series: double-exposures, superimposed imagery, reflections, dramatic lighting, and elaborate sets and props.
Additionally, Samaras quickly discovered the Polaroid SX-70 color print emulsion, which was protected under a layer of Mylar, remained wet and highly malleable for several minutes. By interrupting the film’s development through variety of methods and techniques, Samaras was able to manipulate and radically transform his images within the emulsion, blurring the lines between photography, drawing, and painting.
Considered to be among the artist’s best work, the series consists of hundreds of unique, jewel-like photographs. “In each one of them dualities collide: the everyday with the mythical, horror with campiness, agony with ecstasy. Samaras plays director and performer, monster and victim, satyr and vamp in animated pictures in which time does not stop but seems to simultaneously coalesce and dissolve.”