One of the themes we’ve seen emerge from September’s slew of gallery openings is the increasingly enthusiastic use of computer software by older artists–many of whom rose to prominence in the ’50s and ’60s, like Gerhard Richter. This week, Greek-American legend Lucas Samaras adds his name to the list, unveiling kaleidoscopic new works, created entirely in Photoshop, at Pace Gallery.
Samaras has been the subject of hundreds of solo shows since he moved to the United States as a young artist. In the ’50s, he was part of Allan Kaprow’s first Happenings (he relived the experience in New York Magazine last year). In the ’60s, he created some of his best-known work, like the small-scale found object Boxes. In the ’70s, he blossomed as a photographer, manipulating Polaroids and later, digital photos, with glee.
XYZ showcases yet another new phase in Samaras’s work. In four series on view at Pace Gallery, he’s woven pieces of digital refuse–strands of pixels and psychedelic gradients–into lush digital landscapes. The characters dance, jump, and play in flurries of motion, waving fans of pixels like exotic birds of prey. One series, Flea, is knit from dozens of images Samaras shot at Manhattan flea markets, pieced together to create bizarre still-life renderings. Printed in full pigment, the images are eye-popping and complex.
Samaras and many of his contemporaries have worked with computers for decades now. But XYZ is a different type of digital art–one that transcends the computer as a “tool.” These pieces aren’t impersonating paintings or photographs. They were created from start to finish in Photoshop and represent a shift from digital image editing to digital image creation, though, according to Samaras, XYZ is still grounded in humanity. Speaking with W’s Fan Zhong last week, he explained: “From these effects, you can extrapolate the entire human condition.” Wasn’t that the fundamental goal of the Happenings, too?
XYZ is on view until October 27th at Pace Gallery’s 508 West 25th Street location in New York.