In 1983, Lucas Samaras was among a handful of artists invited by Polaroid to use its immense 40-by-80-inch camera housed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The camera essentially comprised its own light-tight room, measuring 12 by 12 feet, and 16 feet in height. Known as the Museum Camera, it was developed initially to make actual-size, highly detailed, full-color photographs of paintings. Like the large-format 20-by-24-inch camera, the Museum Camera used the same Polacolor technology as Polaroid's consumer cameras. The use of the camera required the assistance of a number of technicians, one of whom was positioned inside it to advance the film and operate the shutter. Pre-exposure focus was achieved through the use of powerful lights which illuminated the subject sufficiently to project a pale image through the lens and onto the focal plane of the camera. Exposure required banks of synchronized strobes.
With this camera, Samaras began his aptly-named Ultra-Large series, each image of which was executed with the artist's characteristic inventiveness. In the two Ultra-Large studies by Samaras present in this catalogue, his talent for lighting is evident. In the image offered here, Samaras focuses tightly on his hands, bathing them in hummingbird ruby, green, and yellow. This astonishingly large photograph delivers a great deal of detail, and the artists' hands are rendered in all of their corporeal reality. Yet, through its immense size and inventive use of color, the image transcends the documentary and incorporates, instead, a far more evocative study of an artist's principal tools.
Other images made with the Museum Camera, by Samaras, Chuck Close, and Robert Heinecken, are present in this catalogue as Lots 25, 35, and 37.
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