Sam Gilliam - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, October 19, 2021 | Phillips

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  • ". . . what was most personal to me were the things I saw in my own environment—such as clotheslines filled with clothes with so much weight that they had to be propped up . . . That was a pertinent clue." —Sam Gilliam in conversation with Donald Miller, ARTnews January 1973

    Sam Gilliam’s innovative works of the late '60s and early '70s, which helped push painting into an expanded field, are now legendary, canonical, and well known. These stretcherless, intentionally draped, color-soaked canvases with their folds and myriad of allusions presented a new way to experience the space of painting. With them, he subverts our expectations of where this medium should sit. The same might be said of his equally experimental, yet arguably lesser-known printmaking oeuvre.


    By 1974, when Gilliam collaged and screenprinted Tee-2 with the late Bill Weege (founder of Tandem Press) at the Jones Road Print Shop and Stable in Barnesveld, Wisconsin, he was no stranger to constructing in fabric. Fabric and clothing gave Gilliam’s work moments of thick and thin viscous pigment, paper, wrinkles, experimentation, and innovation. Similar to Tee 2, Composed (formerly Dark as I Am) (1968-74), which began as an installation later transformed into an assemblage, made use of the artist’s clothes, and included a T-shirt. The final expression of Composed was completed the same year Tee 2 was conceived. The use of the shirt is inherently personal through its material relation to the body. The shirt rests open-armed with sleeves extending past the confines of the sheet’s edges, a welcoming gesture.


    In Tee 2, the T-shirt sits in relief upon the Arches support quite literally elevating what is usually a flat printing surface. The material with its wrinkles, softness, and instability leaves open the possibility for unique variations from print to print within the edition, although we cannot be certain as this is currently the only known example from the edition of 10. The halo of sparse ink around the outline of the shirt reveals the limits of the screen's ability to register the inks flat. Although the technical process of screenprinting places the work in the realm of printmaking, the palette of warm splatters and overall composition nudges us towards a painterly conversation. Once again Gilliam has defied the limits of a medium. Welcome. To the prints of Sam Gilliam.


    Composed (formerly Dark As I Am), 1968-74, acrylic, clothing, backpack, painter’s tools, wooden closet pole, all on wood door. Collection of the artist’s daughters. Photo: Marc Gulezian/QuickSilver.
    • Literature

      David Acton 25

    • 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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Tee 2 (A. 25)

Screenprint in colors and collage of T-shirt, Arches Cover paper, the full sheet.
S. 33 5/8 x 26 1/4 in. (85.4 x 66.7 cm)
Signed, titled, dated and numbered 1/10 in pencil (there was also 1 artist's proof), published by Jones Road Print Shop and Stable, Barneveld, Wisconsin, framed.

Full Cataloguing

$10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for $13,860

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Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 19-21 October 2021