The Greek born, New Jersey bred artist Lucas Samaras is a true enigma. Compulsively productive, his output spans sculpture, photography, paintings and film. Samaras is a foremost a performer; a onetime aspiring actor, he began his foray into the New York art world by performing in the famed Happenings of the early 1960s orchestrated by Allan Kaprow, Robert Whitman, and Claes Oldenburg. Samaras’ highly personal independent practice began in the late 1950s. His output ranges from simplistic Surrealist-inspired drawings to precious, diminutive boxes, incrusted yarn, pins and secret drawers, manipulated Poloroids and digital photography. His father was a shoemaker, and Samaras spent much of his time with two aunts who worked at seamstresses-- adapting not only their skills, but their keen eye for minute craft detail.
Untitled was executed in the early 1960s, when Samaras had just began his series of well-known Surrealist inspired boxes-- fastidiously decorated with pins, razor blades, tacks, thread, hair, glass, and filled with intimate detritus. Like his famed boxes, Samaras’ untitled book is a once ordinary object that has been carefully and singularly altered- in this case, page to spine, with spindly, opulent golden pins. Seeming imbued with alchemy by the artist’s touch, his book is both sensuous and menacing, beckoning with its seductive, rich texture and dazzling golden color while threatening with the bite of a pin-prick. Samaras sought out this unique sensual dichotomy: You are supposed to feel a dazzle. And then you say, Ooh, I cant touch it (L. Samaras, quoted in Pierre Alexandre de Looz Samaras: Filthy Artist, Not a Prince, 032c, Winter 2009/10, p. 114). Propped open with pages splayed, yet contents obscured, Samaras’ book counteracts the notion of an “open book”- its identity and secret knowledge buried, delightfully and curiously transformed into a confounding treasure. With his famed sleight of hand, Samaras has metamorphosed a common book into a thing of wonder—familiar in shape, but altogether unique, extravagant, delicate, and dangerous; a spiny creature poised to strike.