Sam Gilliam (American, 1933-2022). Small acrylic on birch plywood titled "Mark Squared" depicting a colorful abstract composition, 2000. With a three-dimensional element in the form of an irregular-shaped wedge projecting from the lower half of the artwork. Signed, titled, and dated along the verso.
Provenance: Private Minnesota collection.
Sam Gilliam was one of America's foremost Black artists and a leader in the color field and lyrical abstraction movements. He was influenced by German Expressionists such as Emil Nolde, Paul Klee, and Nathan Oliveira. He was additionally influenced by Vladimir Tatlin, Frank Stella, Hans Hofmann, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, and aul Cezanne. An artist from an early age, he was always interested in art and eventually studied fine arts at the University of Louisville, admitted as the second class of black undergraduate students to the school.
Around 1965, he became the first artist to introduce the idea of an unsupported canvas, draping the paintings from ceilings, walls, and floors. These works were immensely popular and led to exhibitions and commissions worldwide including representing the United States at the 36th Venice Biennale. He moved away from this in later years to focus on jazz-inspired works like his Black Paintings, so-named because they are painted in shades of black. His works shifted once more in the 1980s to resemble the African patchwork quilts of his childhood. Though he was largely overlooked throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, his career saw a resurgence following a retrospective at the Corcoran Gallery in 2005.
From then until his death in 2022, his works came into the collections of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art among others. He also had successful exhibitions including a second show at the Venice Biennale (2017), a large-scale draped painting titled "Yves Klein Blue" in Giardini's central pavilion for the show "Viva Arte Viva," and his first European retrospective in 2018 hosted by the Kunstmuseum Basel.
His honors and awards were plentiful including eight honorary doctorates, several National Endowment for the Arts grants, the Longview Foundation Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2015 he was awarded the Medal of Art by the U.S. State Department for his longtime contributions to art in embassies and other diplomatic facilities as well as his cultural diplomacy, which showcased his works in over 20 countries during his career.
From 1962 until the 1980s, Gilliam was married to Dorothy Butler, the first African-American female columnist at The Washington Post. They had three daughters together. In 2018, after a 35-year partnership, he married Annie Gawlak, owner of the former G Fine Art gallery in Washington, D.C. On June 25, 2022, Gilliam died in his home at the age of 88 after a long, varied, and ultimately successful career creating the art that he loved.Height: 12 in x width: 12 in x depth: 4 in.
The artwork is structurally sound. All pieces are firmly attached. There are no splits, losses, or repairs to the wooden components. Natural bubbles to the paint surface original to the artistic process. Along the lower right of the red panel there are three small spots (the largest measuring 3/4 inch x 3/4 inch) that fluoresce under UV light and appear uneven when compared to the rest of the work which is quite smooth, save for the aforementioned bubbles. This is likely an area of pooled varnish. There is some slight yellow discoloration to the varnish throughout. Some scratches to the metal along the verso of the work.
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