Sam Gilliam

Sam Gilliam established himself as a major artist in 1968 when he jettisoned the wooden stretcher bars that had previously determined the shape of his paintings and allowed his vivid, sometimes ecstatic, rushes of color-stained canvas to hang, billow, and swing through space. Yet Gilliam’s contributions to art history extend far beyond these often monumental and always dramatic works.

Currently on view in the Forman Gallery

Gilliam’s idea that painting could be sculptural and even theatrical radically distinguished him from his contemporaries, such as color-field painter Helen Frankenthaler. Since that time (1968) Gilliam has gone on to create work in an astounding variety of styles while always remaining true to his fundamental disregard for the boundaries that have traditionally separated the disciplines of painting, sculpture, and architecture.

The octogenarian artist keeps surprising!
Sam Gilliam Unfurls an Exuberant Rainbow at Dia:Beacon

“Sam Gilliam, an abstract painter of 85, proves that optical prettiness can have depth. A longtime resident of Washington, he is loosely associated with color-field painting, which once turned our nation’s capital into a capital of contemporary art.” ~ The New York Times, September 12, 2019.

Kunstmuseum Basel | The Music of Color, Sam Gilliam, 1967-1973

Sam Gilliam: A Retrospective

In this volume, the first in-depth book devoted to this major figure, Jonathan P. Binstock explores four decades of work and establishes the artist’s place in the history of post-1960s art. Binstock’s wide-ranging and provocative inquiry into Gilliam’s groundbreaking achievements as a modernist and as an African American artist is supported with a wealth of beautifully produced illustrations—both full-color and black-and-white—as well as an annotated and illustrated chronology and an exhaustive bibliography. This thoughtful exploration and appraisal of Gilliam’s extraordinary oeuvre places the artist at the forefront of American abstract art.

On fire:

The Artist Catching Fire at 85
“After six decades quietly building a respected career, Sam Gilliam’s paintings are suddenly selling for over $2 million.” ~ Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2019. (PDF)

At Last, Sam Gilliam’s Star Ascends in New York
“Sam Gilliam, the abstract artist who rose to prominence in the 1960s with his large-scale draped canvas paintings, will join Pace Gallery’s roster of artists, the gallery announced Monday. It will be the first time in the 85-year-old painter’s long career that he will be represented by a New York gallery.” ~ The New York Times, July 29, 2019

Following a Flurry of Major Exhibitions, Color Field Painter Sam Gilliam Will Be Represented by Pace Gallery ~ artnet News, July 29, 2019

shown l to r: Sam Gilliam, Fishing Well, 1997; Into the Woods, 2017; Untitled, 2018; Untitled, 2018. Gifts of Sam Gilliam.