Critics’ Picks

Lucas Samaras, NO NAME 6 (Screens), 2017, pure pigment on paper mounted on Dibond, 12 x 12".

Lucas Samaras, NO NAME 6 (Screens), 2017, pure pigment on paper mounted on Dibond, 12 x 12".

New York

Lucas Samaras

Pace | 510 West 25th Street
510 West 25th Street
September 15–October 21, 2017

Lucas Samaras looks at life through the kaleidoscope of his own work, like an Idealist philosopher entertaining the possibility that the world may cease to exist without his direct observation of it. Unlike other artists who transform the creating self into narcissistic phantasmagoria, Samaras comes close to an obsessive outsider sensibility that divorces his work from that of his contemporaries. Nonetheless, Samaras has always been there to remind us that aggressive subjectivity is a rebellious option.

The artist’s current exhibition of photographs is made up of rooms hung with twelve-inch-square Photoshopped prints. Exquisite, hallucinatory mandalas make up a grouping of works to which the artist refers as Kastorian Inveiglements (all works 2017). Elsewhere, we find Rorschach-like street scenes, glowing ducks, and a sprinkling of his iconic self-portraits, such as NO NAME 6 (Screens), where the artist’s abject face looks as if it’s dissolving into a cloud of dust. Samaras, like Man Ray (and younger artists Oliver Wasow and Barbara Ess), was thinking in Photoshop before it was invented. Whether this is precognitive artmaking or the uncanny ability of the tech industry to give us what we didn’t know we wanted is impossible to ascertain.

One doesn’t think of Samaras looking outward, engaging in point-and-shoot photography like a psychedelic flaneur. One thinks, “Why ducks? Why this city view?” But then the feeling of a day spent alone wandering the city with our attention focused inward surfaces. What we see and what we think about on these occasions are so often randomly juxtaposed that it is difficult to decide if we are seeing or thinking at all. And this describes the visionary experience that Samaras’s work has always evoked.