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The Jungle

Chair Transformation Number 12, by artist Lucas Samaras, is made of of synthetic polymer on wood. The sculpture is vibrantly-colored with a circle seat and a swirling pattern that becomes the back and “legs” of the chair. The numerous colors that repeat throughout the entire chair and the curvy loops convey a melodramatic sense of this creativity. 

At first glance, without knowing the title, this work did not embody the geometric, sturdy structure of a conventional four-legged-chair. Parts of the chair appear softer and malleable because the colors are consistent and the color patches on the front of the chair do not vary from the side of the chair, while in a conventional chair, one can imagine the structural parts of a regular chair if it were to be disassembled, easily distinguishing where one part ends and begins. Here, in Samaras’s complex version, it is difficult to decipher where the wavy structure begins and ends. It reminds me of an intense amusement park ride. Just like a roller coaster has its ups and downs, the steepness and direction of the chair changes every so often, carrying the eye on the same paths over and over again. When a passenger is on a roller coaster, as the adrenaline rushes in, the ride seems endlessly thrilling. And while it is short-lived, he or she yearns for that same high after it is over. In Samaras’s construction, while I soon realized that it is a chair, I felt a compelling curiosity to sit on it because that seems like an intriguing and baffling experience.

Lucas Samaras, Chair Transformation Number 12, 1969–70  70.1573
Lucas Samaras, Chair Transformation Number 12, 1969–70. Synthetic polymer on wood, 41 1/2 × 36 × 13 in. (105.4 × 91.4 × 33 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation Inc.  70.1573
© Lucas Samaras

Through this work, Samaras may have tried to rebel against conventions and the idea that objects are supposed to look a certain way. A simple structure can be elaborate and intricate almost to the point where it is impossible to figure out it is just a chair, but it serves the same function. It would be interesting to sit on his chair because if it is comfortable, Samaras may have wanted to communicate that life is more exciting if people are not afraid to challenge and look beyond the norm. And if it is not comfortable, Samaras may have wanted to say that sometimes simple things are the best solutions. Either way, through this one crazily-designed chair, he propels our imagination. Although I would like to own one of his chairs just to absorb the bizarreness, I am grateful for my conventional versions because they look cozier.

I think the color patches are symbolic of unity and stability. Chairs are objects that every person—regardless of location, culture, household, values, and backgrounds—has used and are familiar with. Chairs support and provide a backbone, representing that different types of people create a unique concoction to make communities what they are today. Without a certain color, the chair lacks the same vibe, just as without a certain culture or peoples, the world lacks a full range of diversity.

Here is a poem inspired by Lucas Samaras’ Chair Transformation Number 12….

The Jungle

Let’s jingle let’s mingle

Let’s hear the wiggle

the hammock trickles with

ladybugs on 

towering

shrubs

the toucan screeches

the snake yelps

the monkey reaches

for the banana in the purple kelps

the green blossoms

the green nourishes

the green wrinkles

and

falls

never mind that

it’s still green,

says the chameleon,

and I’m still green

Let’s jingle let’s mingle

Let’s hear the wiggle

the hammock trickles with

ladybugs on

towering

shrubs

By Nancy