Lucas Samaras was born in Kastoria, Greece. He immigrated to New Jersey in 1948, graduating from Rutgers with a degree in art in 1959. Samaras, who was a friend of Donald Judd’s, also studied art history at Columbia University with Meyer Schapiro.
Like Judd, Samaras began placing three-dimensional works directly on the floor in the early 1960s.1 Samaras had his solo debut at Green Gallery, New York, at the end of 1961 and exhibited in a group exhibition with Judd in New Work: Part I, also at Green Gallery (January 8–February 2, 1963). Reflecting upon the distinction between his work and Samaras’s, Judd noted in a 1972 interview with Barbara Rose that he was “a little incapable or disinterested in sort of exotic kinds of art, at least if I make them. I like other people’s exotic art, like Lucas Samaras’s. I don’t think it would be possible for me to make an art that was really too strange or exotic or anything like that. I think it has to have a certain ordinariness—it perhaps comes out of what you get used to visually.”2
Samaras first began making boxes in 1960 and began numbering these works in 1962, making 295 boxes in total. He covered the exterior of Box #48 with a thick layer of gold beads; an excrescence of sharpened pencils protrudes from one side. Three small, sharp paring knives penetrate the box, and the areas around the knives’ entries are tinted red, as if the object bled. One knife must be removed to open the box, which reveals multiple interior cavities. In these compartments, the artist assembled a syringe and needle puncturing a miniature globe, cotton, iridescent purple plastic shapes, glass, and an X-ray image of human hands, rendered in both black and white and vibrant, prismatic color. “I’m never interested in ambiguous response,” Samaras has said. “Rather a positive negative . . . touch or not touch, the quality of seducing-repelling.”3