The Nevica Project

Sam Gilliam

Sam Gilliam (b 1933) is a color field painter and lyrical abstractionist artist. Gilliam, an African American, is associated with the Washington Color School, a group of Washington, D.C. artists that developed a form of abstract art from color field painting in the 1950s and 1960s.

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 expressionism and lyrical abstraction. He is recognized as the first artist to introduce the idea of a draped, painted canvas hanging without stretcher bars around 1965. This was a major contribution to the Color Field School. In his more recent work, Gilliam has worked with polypropylene, computer-generated imaging, metallic and iridescent acrylics, handmade paper, aluminum, steel, plywood, and plastic.

One of the most important African-American artists of the twentieth century, Gilliam was the subject of a 1983 retrospective exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C., Modern Painter at the Corcoran :  Sam Gilliam. His works can be seen in such collections as the Art Institute of Chicago;   the Beymans Museum in Rotterdam;  the Phillips Collection;  the Corcoran Museum;  the Hirshhorn Museum;  the National Museum of American Art;  the Metropolitan Museum, New York;  The Museum of Modern Art, New York;  the Tate Gallery, London;  the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis;  the Chazen Museum of Art;  and the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris among many others.