12:52 pm Oct. 1, 2012
A pair of gentleman chatted at Pace gallery Thursday night, one wearing a smart suit and a bowler hat, the other in a shabby-chic gray coat over a leopard print sweater (flecked with pinks and blues), a straw fedora, and rose-tinted glasses.
“Do you mind if I take your picture?” I asked.
“Don’t ask permission…just photograph.” Lucas Samaras replied—his long, thin white hair visible from beneath his fedora; more hair tufted along his jaw and out from his chin.
“I’m his art pimp. I go where the artist goes,” his conversation partner, Jed Hotchkiss, announced.
“He’s an art what…what did he say, an art what?” Samaras wondered, his voice breathy and strained.
“An art pimp.” Hotchkiss repeated.
Samaras was one of two artists tapped to inaugurate Pace Gallery’s downtown space. His show, XYZ, included twenty of his recent works and opened Thursday night in Pace’s new 25th Street gallery. Samaras has dabbled in a lot of artistic genres throughout his fifty-plus years as an artist, but his love for assemblage and bright, punchy, psychedelic color is all over this show, accented by dizzying digital manipulations. Commonly linked to the “Happenings” movement, Samaras began his career participating in art performances staged by artists like Claes Oldenburg, Robert Whitman, and Allan Kaprow. He’s most well-known for using whatever media he could get his hands on to create and manipulate images of himself.
On Thursday, Samaras shared the podium with installation artist Robert Irwin, so the gallery was cut in two—with Samaras’s blasts of color on one side and Irwin’s absence of it on the other.
Irwin’s Dotting the i's & Crossing the t’s, featured in both Pace gallery venues (midtown and downtown), was represented here with three large translucent acrylic pillars—a single column on one end of the space and a set of two columns about twenty feet away on the other. Constructed as prisms, light refracts through them and passing bodies and forms get distorted.
“They’re so minimal but they’re also so intricate because of the way that light reflects it, the prisms and everything.” artist Charlee Swanson said. A longtime Irwin fan, he gazed deeply into the column, wondering how the structure was put together.
At the opening, people inched as close as they could, thinking that the structures had to be mirrors.
“That’s the trick then. You’re expecting one thing then you get another,” journalist Maira Kraljević said. “You are expecting a reflection of yourself.”
On the Samaras side of show were four series of prints by the artist, all of which are digitally-manipulated color compositions. Some are more abstract than others. In his “Flea” series, Samaras collages found objects from flea markets, while his “Razor cut” series presents geometrically cut swaths of color, suggesting abstracted human forms.
I asked Samaras how he felt about the work.
“You should not ask the artist that,” he replied. And then a bit later he reiterated: “The question is not pertinent.”
Samaras, who is known as something of an introvert, was equally circumspect with others. Sid Tomer, the city’s most committed art opening attendee, walked up to Samaras and said, “A beautiful show… really a very intelligent show.”
He then motioned to shake Samaras’s hand.
“No, I’m not shaking hands,” Samaras said, rather politely.
More by this author:
- For Charles Clough, a solo show that raises the question: What was the 'Pictures Generation' really?
- Steven Soderbergh describes his last good shot