Sam Gilliam, ‘Yellow Fan-White Float’, Skinner

Signed, dated, and titled "Sam Gilliam 73..." on the reverse.
59 1/2 x 70 1/2 in. (151.0 x 179.0 cm), framed.

N.B. Born in Mississippi and raised in Kentucky, Sam Gilliam moved to Washington, DC, after graduating from college. By the 1960s, he had established himself as a member of the Washington Color School, alongside painters Kenneth Noland and Thomas Downing. Gilliam's experiments with paint application and his transformation of the canvas support elaborated upon the ideas and processes of Color Field painting.

Between 1967 and 1973, Gilliam focused on two series of works, one he called "Beveled-edge" or "Slice" paintings, the other he called "Drape" paintings. The present lot is a perfect example of a Beveled-edge work. For these paintings, he began by pouring acrylic paint (sometimes diluted) directly onto unprimed, unstretched canvases or by soaking the canvases in the paint, similar to techniques used by Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis. He would then manipulate the wet canvas--by folding, crumpling, hanging, or even shaking--to transform the washes of color into layers of ridges, grooves, drips, and pools of pigment. He achieved depth by layering the paint and building up the surface with a variety of textures. Finally, when the paint was dry, Gilliam stretched the canvases onto custom-made stretchers with beveled edges. When hung, the beveled edges projected the works off of the wall and towards the viewer, removing the image from the flat, two-dimensional plane of traditional painting and into the viewer's physical space. By varying his pouring and soaking techniques, Gilliam created a variety of compositional forms, ranging from vertical columns of color, to collage-like layers of diagonal folds, to radial bursts of light, all of which were shaped by a combination of carefully controlled processes and actions and by the inevitable element of chance.

The Drape paintings were made in much the same way; however, for these, Gilliam skipped the final step of stretching the canvases, and instead hung them from walls and ceilings without frames or supports, either draping, folding, or tying the final product. The Beveled-edge and Drape paintings were the focus of Gilliam's first New York solo gallery show in 32 years, at Mnuchin Gallery in the fall of 2017. Still working on Drape paintings today, Gilliam created the huge Yves Klein Blue for the 2017 Venice Biennale. The work took center stage, hanging above the entrance to the exhibition's Central Pavilion.

This was not the first time Gilliam participated in the Venice Biennale, he had also contributed to the American Pavilion in 1972. His works have been exhibited widely in galleries and museums worldwide. Upcoming exhibitions include The Music of Color: Sam Gilliam, 1967-1973 at the Kunstmuseum Basel, June 9-September 30, 2017 and Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, February 3-April 23, 2018 and the Brooklyn Museum, September 7, 2018-February 3, 2019.

Framed dimensions: 61 x 72 3/4 in.

A Rhode Island collection.

About Sam Gilliam

A pillar of the Washington, D.C., modern and contemporary art communities, internationally acclaimed abstract painter Sam Gilliam has been testing the boundaries of color, form, texture, and the canvas itself over the course of his long, productive career. Filling canvases with fields of deeply saturated color and layers of expressionistic brushstrokes, both subtle and bold, Gilliam was a part of the Washington Color School (late 1950s through mid-’70s) and has been associated with the Abstract Expressionists. Ever the innovator, he took his color-stained canvases off of the stretcher in the late 1960s and presented them in radical new ways: draped across walls and hung from the ceiling in generous, folding layers. These sculpture-painting hybrids have become a defining part of Gilliam’s practice and inflect all of his work with an ongoing exploration of the depth, physicality, and resonance of color.

American, b. 1933, Tupelo, Mississippi, based in Washington, DC, United States

Solo Shows

2018
New York,
Sam Gilliam: Canvases and Works on Paper, 1970-1975
2017
Griot's Art Gallery, Center for Haitian Studies, 
Miami, FL, United States,
Spirit of Collaboration: Sam Gilliam and Lou Stovall
2017
Seattle Art Museum, 
Seattle, WA, United States,
Sam Gilliam
2016
David Kordansky Gallery, 
Los Angeles, CA, United States,
Green April
View Artist's CV