Remembering D.C. art icon Sam Gilliam
Sam Gilliam, a prolific Washingtonian whose bold, colorful canvases and drapery pushed the boundaries of abstract art, has passed away at age 88.
Catch-up quick: Gilliam, who moved to D.C. in the early 1960s to teach art at McKinley Technical High School, first exhibited his work in 1969 at the then-Corcoran Gallery of Art, per the Washington Post.
- In 1972, he was the first African American artist to represent the U.S. at the Venice Biennale. His work has also been commissioned for DCA, The Kennedy Center, and the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture.
The big picture: Experimentation was a core theme of his work. Gilliam notably draped painted canvases across the ceilings of exhibition spaces and said he went through more than 100 gallons of paint a year.
“His art is painting, but it’s also not painting. It’s sculpture — it’s also not sculpture; it’s architectural — it’s also not architecture. He’s really established himself in a unique way in the history of art through this form.”— Jonathan Binstock, University of Rochester Memorial Art Gallery Director to WAMU in 2018.
Where to see his art: Visit the Hirshhorn's retrospective exhibit, Sam Gilliam: Full Circle, open through September 11. The exhibition features works created in 2021 and 1977.
Here are Gilliam's own words about his work at the Hirshorn:
“The tondo series introduced in this show encapsulates many of the ideas that I have been developing throughout my career. Just as importantly, they reflect my current thinking about color, materials, and space. These spaces determined by color and texture are limitless.”
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