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Lucas Samaras

Chair Transformation Number 16

1969–70

Lucas Samaras, Chair Transformation Number 16, 1969–70  70.1574
Lucas Samaras, Chair Transformation Number 16, 1969–70. Synthetic polymer on wood, 30 × 14 13/16 × 28 1/4 in. (76.2 × 37.6 × 71.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation Inc.  70.1574 For Teachers
© Lucas Samaras

about this work

This work belongs to a series of twenty-five Chair Transformations (seven of which are owned by the Whitney) that Lucas Samaras created in 1969-1970. Having previously “transformed” other utilitarian conveniences such as eyeglasses, knives, and scissors, Samaras altered his chairs with a perverse, witty assortment of materials including plastic flowers, lengths of colored yarn, wool, tin foil, and plastic wire. Chair Transformation Number 16’s reductive geometries allude to Minimalism, even as the sharp pyramid in the chair’s seat and the disproportioned circular legs offer a cheeky jab at the emotional austerity of the movement. Samaras has remarked that his Chairs and other Transformation series negate “the possibility of a single Platonic ideal acting as a measure for any physical thing.” Indeed, these chairs defy their intended purpose; most of them are not structurally sound and cannot be sat in. They function instead as poetic surrogates for an absent body, imaginatively—and often humorously—asserting their presence as works of art.

Patterson Sims. Whitney Museum of American Art: Selected Works from the Permanent Collection. 2nd ed. Compiled by Kristie Jayne. (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art in association with W. W. Norton & Company, 1994), 185.

Audio

Audio guide stop for Lucas Samaras’ Chair Transformation series

look closer

Describe this object.

How does it look similar to a regular chair?

How does it look different than a regular chair?

Where might you find this chair? What could this chair be used for?

If you were to transform a chair, what changes would you make?

Activities

Lucas Samaras made more than two dozen Chair Transformations, creating sculptural objects that played with the size, shape, and structure of a basic chair. Samaras was drawn to the ubiquity, variety, and power of chairs in our daily lives and throughout history, literature, and art.

Look at Chair Transformation Number 12 and discuss the changes Samaras made. How does this look similar to or different from the chairs in your classroom? What elements did he add or take away? In what kind of place might this chair be found? Could you use this chair? Why or why not?

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