PRINT March 1997

Magpie in the Sky

IT TAKES A CERTAIN amount of bravery to live among one’s own art, as if locked overnight in your show after the gallery has closed. It’s probably easier if you possess a monastic temperament, happy to sit at an Upper West Side kitchen table and stitch remnants or string beads or fracture and manipulate images. Of course, monks aren’t usually packrats, surrounding themselves with junk-store familiars that are audience to their own demise and artistic resurrection. But this is how Lucas Samaras lived and worked until 1990, when he moved himself and his material brood into a dramatically high high-rise overlooking Central Park. By giving up his hermetic home/studio, was he giving up his art? Certainly not. It’s natural to keep up with one’s achievement. But would he feel himself? “First, hang your favorite picture.” That’s the magazine advice given to new home owners to ease their desolation. Samaras took it one step further: he “hung” his whole apartment.

At its best, decor sometimes succeeds at doing what Samaras’ art also does: displace objects to manipulate expectations. From the front door—one of two entrances—you walk down a hallway almost mythologized by Venetian trade beads, hanging like a Euro-tribal fringe, from the top of the flanking walls that lead toward the silver-curtained window at the end. Is this decor? Not quite. Too signature, too art to be artful. A chopstick chair dares a sitter to sit. Gray-walled rooms kaleidoscope into one another. Then a study leads into its mirror image, Samaras’ studios, and the metamorphosed kitchen table. Here he is, at home: the artist’s collected figments have found their place.