NEW YORK – Craig F. Starr Gallery is pleased to present Lucas Samaras: AutoPolaroids 1969-71 on view June 9 through August 12. The exhibition offers an in‐depth look at the artist’s first foray into photography, bringing together more than fifty works, including the very first AutoPolaroid and several that have never been seen before. This show is the first presentation to focus solely on the AutoPolaroids, since their debut exhibition 45 years ago.
This experimental and self-reflective series examines the artist’s desire to explore his own body, something he was unable to do until the Polaroid camera allowed him the freedom to be, in his own words, “my own critic, my own exciter, my own director, my own audience.” AutoPolaroid, a term coined by Samaras – a play on the French autoportrait, meaning self-portrait – addresses the automatic, instantaneous, and intimate nature of the Polaroid 360 camera.
This series – composed in solitude, within the confines of the artist’s apartment, and shot mostly late at night or early morning – includes formal compositions and still-lifes, in addition to a vast majority of self-portraits. Samaras appears in an almost endless array of poses – often naked and from unusual and shocking points of view. Some of the AutoPolaroids are spectacularly embellished with hand-applied ink; rich black or vibrant colors appear in a variety of different line and dot patterns filling in the backgrounds. As a body of work, the AutoPolaroids are performative, provocative, stylized and incredibly personal. They break taboos, strangely integrating the reality of Samaras’s body, his physicality and sexuality, with the humorous, theatrical, and even the beautiful.
Samaras is well known for a wide range of work including performance, painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, and photography. The AutoPolaroids are amongst Samaras’s most transgressive photographic images, and they reveal his extraordinary inventiveness and seminal importance as a contemporary photographer. The photographs in this series are not only precursors to his later photographs; their art historical significance predates the work of artists who also took on role-playing and explored their own body as subjects, such as Cindy Sherman and Robert Mapplethorpe.