Tupelo 1933 - 2022 Washington, D.C.
Sam Gilliam is one of the most important representatives of abstract painting in the USA. Since 1962, the artist has lived and worked in Washington, D.C. His works are represented in numerous collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, MoMA (New York), the National Gallery of Art and the Whitney Museum of Art. The Music of Color is the artist's first institutional solo exhibition in Europe. Here, with a focus on the years 1967 to 1973, Gilliam's most radical creative period takes center stage. In 2017, his work Yves Klein Blue, which follows on from his experimental early work, was on view at the 57th Venice Biennale.
In 1967, Sam Gilliam began the series of Beveled-edge paintings: he poured acrylic paint directly over the unprepared canvas and folded and crumpled it while the paint was still wet. He then stretched the canvas on a beveled stretcher, which gave the painting a spatial, object-like quality. Gilliam's most important artistic achievement is the series of Drape paintings he began in 1968. Here he worked the canvas in the same way as for the Beveled-edge paintings, with the difference that he freed the paintings from the stretcher. Unlike the easel painting, which usually functions independently of its context, the Drape paintings performatively incorporate the exhibition space, as they can be installed differently depending on the spatial situation.
Sam Gilliam strove to blur the widely accepted distinction between painting and sculpture cultivated by prominent contemporaries, such as Donald Judd. Gilliam's works from 1967-1973 are characterized by their monumentality and expressive color. The canvas becomes a carrier of traces of the production process, while displaying its own materiality. Just at a time when painting seemed to be in decline, Gilliam breathed new life into it, his expressive, vital painting style being inspired not least by jazz.