Sam Gilliam (* 1933 in Tupelo, Mississippi) is one of the most important representatives of abstract painting in the United States. The artist has lived and worked in Washington DC since 1962. His works have been featured in numerous collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, MoMA (New York), the National Gallery of Art, and the Whitney Museum of Art Artist in Europe. With the emphasis on the years 1967 to 1973, Gilliam's most radical creative phase takes center stage. In 2017, his work Yves Klein Blue, based on his experimental early work, was shown at the 57th Venice Biennale.
In 1967, Sam Gilliam started 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. The most important artistic achievement of Gilliam is the series of Drape paintings, begun 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. In contrast to the easel painting, which usually works independently of its context, the drape paintings include the exhibition space performatively, since they can be installed differently depending on the room situation.
Sam Gilliam sought to blur the widely accepted division between painting and sculpture, cultivated by prominent contemporaries, such as Donald Judd.Gilliam's works of the years 1976-1973 are characterized by their monumentality and their expressive colors. The canvas becomes the bearer of traces of the production process, displaying its own materiality. Just at a time when painting was on the decline, Gilliam breathed new life into her, his expressive, vital style of painting inspired not least by jazz.
The Music of Color also addresses the political and historical dimension of Gilliam's work. Although the artist seldom expresses himself on political issues, the works of the so-called Martin Luther King series and Jail Jungle refer to the racial turmoil of 1968 and to the strongly polarized discussion of Black Art and Abstract Painting in the USA of the 1960s and 1970s.