Lucas Samaras

Chair Transformation Number 12

Not on view



Painted plywood

Overall: 41 7/8 × 36 × 12 7/8in. (106.4 × 91.4 × 32.7 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation, Inc.

Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate


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. The “transformation” of Chair No. 12 into a swirling structure covered with stippled, vibrantly-hued brushwork evokes an array of earlier modernist movements—from Pointillism and Fauvism to the biomorphic abstraction of Surrealist and Abstract Expressionist painting. 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.