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Sam Gilliam

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Sam Gilliam

American, (1933–2022)
University of Louisville, BA, 1955, MA, 1961

"Sam Gilliam (1933- ) was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. He made frequent trips to New York and admired the work of Barnett Newman, Hans Hoffman and Mark Rothko. In his early abstract paintings, his central concerns were structure, color and surface. The paintings had flat, expansive color areas with wide margins. Around 1966, influenced by the Washington Color School Artists Kenneth Noland and Morris Lewis, Gilliam began to pour color onto the canvas and ""stain"" it. The Washington Color School artists' interests were staining of the canvas to achieve a unity of surface and color, a saturated, bright palette and pouring paint and manipulating it while in a fluid state. He also began to fold the canvas back over itself to create a tension between surfaces and edges, unifying canvas and color as one.
A turning point occurred for Gilliam in 1967. He received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) which allowed him to devote himself to his art full-time. The following year he received a second grant from the Washington Gallery of Modern Art which was of five years duration. He began working on a very large scale and created ambitious works on 75' long canvases using floors and folding them up and down walls, if necessary. The canvas became a tool, part of the process along with the paint. Now the edges were formed by the suspension points and echoed the earlier folded edges. His color became even more random and emotional.
His high speed, intuitive working style, along with an ""overall"" quality to the finished paintings, gestural handling, rugged energy and messy roughness, put him squarely in the best company of the Abstract Expressionist era.
Gilliam produced a large body of paintings over the next decades. A smaller 8' scale series of ""cowls"" begins a period of collage paintings incorporating quilting, fabrics, beads and other objects. The surfaces are built up of interwoven layers of color with an almost monochromatic effect, and the canvas is free of the stretcher.
Gilliam continues to push his work towards spatial extension. Recurrent motifs in his work include his sensitivity for atmospheres, and the ability to put opposites together to form a cohesive whole - line/color, surface/space, somber/lightness, chaos/control.
He has had extensive solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States since 1956. His work is included in the permanent collection of many institutions including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Baltimore Museum of Art." [Source: unknown and currently being researched]

Artist Objects
Wall Circle I


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