Sam Gilliam - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Monday, November 9, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Washington, DC
    Acquired directly from the artist as a gift by the above

  • Catalogue Essay

    "For the first time I felt like an artist ought to feel. Not only did I create an image, but my personality took hold. It became very important to become known as one of the youngest members of the Washington Color Field school." - Sam Gilliam, 1985

    Sam Gilliam arrived in Washington D.C. in 1961 and quickly became associated with the Color Field painters whose work was characterized by examining the interrelation of colors. Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, Thomas Downing, and Paul Reed, among others, strove to present color in a way that freed it of subjective representation though the use of simple forms such as stripes, chevrons, and circles. By the mid-1960s Gilliam and other artists within the movement turned away from using this geometry, striving to further remove the artist's gesture from the work entirely. They began experimenting with new methods that allowed color to become part of a painting’s surface by applying paint with spray guns, rollers, sponges, or simply staining the fabric itself.

    Screen is emblematic as an important transitional piece within the artist's œuvre, as it is one of the first where Gilliam abandons geometric form. Here, colors are free to soak into the canvas and bleed into one another, creating delicate greys and browns, suggesting the relationship between pigment and earth. The year in which this work was created would prove to be pivotal in the artist’s career, marking his entrance into the Phillips Collection and his first show in New York City.

  • Artist Biography

    Sam Gilliam

    American • 1933

    “At Age 84, ‘Living Legend’ Sam Gilliam Is Enjoying His Greatest Renaissance Yet” – so read the headline of a January 2, 2018 artnet article covering the all-time high of Sam Gilliam’s critical and market attention. More than 40 years years since Gilliam became the first African American artist to represent the United States at the Venice Bienniale in 1972, the abstract painter’s career has been catapulted to widespread acclaim. In 2016, a major new commission, Yet I Do Marvel, debuted in the lobby of the highly anticipated National Museum of African American History and Culture in his hometown of Washington, DC, and in 2017 he made his return to the Venice Biennale with his brilliantly colored, unstretched canvas Yves Klein Blue that welcomed visitors to the Giardini’s main pavilion. Most recently, his work has been included in Soul of A Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, the landmark exhibition organized by the Tate Modern, London, that will travel to the Broad Museum in Los Angeles after closing at the Brooklyn Museum in February 2019.

    Gilliam’s innovations from the late 1960s and early 1970s cemented his reputation as one of the most preeminent artists associated with the Washington Color School. Characteristically pushing his medium to its very limits, Gilliam experimented with color, process and materiality like earlier Color Field artists Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland, but took a radically different path in his dismantling of the canvas stretcher. He first rose to fame in the late 1960s with his drape paintings, which came out of his experiments with unsupported canvases – works he said were partly inspired by watching women hang laundry on clotheslines from his studio window in Washington, DC. In 1967, he began creating his slices, or bevelled-edge paintings, which saw him pour paint onto unstretched and unprimed canvases and then fold and crumple the fabric before stretching it on a frame. Since then, he has produced considerable bodies of work, ranging from geometric collage, etchings, watercolors, and quilted paintings to more recent forays into computer generated images and assemblage.

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acrylic on canvas
46 1/8 x 35 1/8 in. (117.2 x 89.2 cm)
Signed, titled and dated "Sam Gilliam, Jr. Screen 1967" along the overlap.

$18,000 - 24,000 

Sold for $81,250

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head Day Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 10 November 2015 11am