In memory of DC art icon Sam Gilliam

Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Sam Gilliam, a prolific Washington native whose bold, colorful canvases and draperies pushed the boundaries of abstract art, has passed away at the age of 88.

Catch up fast: Gilliam, who moved to DC in the early 1960s to teach art at McKinley Technical High School, first exhibited his work at what was then the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1969, per The Washington Post.

The big picture: Experimentation was a core theme of his work. Gilliam notably draped painted canvases over the ceilings of showrooms and said He used more than 100 gallons of paint a year.

“His art is painting, but it is also not painting. It’s sculpture – it’s not sculpture either; it is architectural – it is not architecture either. With this form, he has truly established himself uniquely in art history.”

– Jonathan Binstock, director of the Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester WAMU in 2018.

    Sam Gilliam poses in his DC studio in 1980.  Photo: Anthony Barboza/Getty Images
Sam Gilliam poses in his DC studio in 1980. Photo: Anthony Barboza/Getty Images

Where to see his art: Visit the Hirshhorn retrospective, Sam Gilliam: Full Circleopen until September 11th. The exhibition shows works that were created in 2021 and 1977.

Here are Gilliam’s own words about his work at the Hirshorn:

“The Tondo series featured on this show encapsulates many of the ideas I’ve developed throughout my career. Equally important, they reflect my current thinking about colour, materials and space. Defined by color and texture, these spaces are limitless.”

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