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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Sam Gilliam
B. 1933
AFTER MICRO W #2
signed and dated 82
acrylic on polyester
114.3 by 172.7 by 22.9 cm. 45 by 68 by 9 in.
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Provenance

Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati

Private Collection

Paddle8, New York, 29 September 2016, Lot 51

Acquired from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

London, Pace, IMPULSE, November - December 2017, p. 57, illustrated in colour and p. 86 (installation view), illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Forming part of Sam Gilliam’s Drape Paintings, After Micro W #2 is a visual symphony of colour and movement that liberates painting from its two-dimensionality and catapults the canvas into an exhilarating spatial and sculptural dimension. Having dispensed with the stretcher, the present work achieves a lyricism via unexpected forms and folds via the deliberate element of chance. Gilliam, a colour field painter associated with the Washington Colour School, radically redefined the parameters of the medium when he became the first artist to drape and hang a painted canvas without stretcher bars at his seminal exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1969. Long overlooked by his contemporaries, Gilliam’s works have recently been acquired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Dallas Museum of Art, to name but a few, while the Kunstmuseum Basel announced a major travelling exhibition of the artist commencing in June 2018.

Evoking the same lyricism of fellow Colour Field painters, such as Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland, Gilliam nonetheless embarked on an innovative path to create abstract works that would defy conventional notions and alter material perceptions. In Gilliam’s hands, the picture plane became a compositional element in itself. In the Drape Paintings, as in the present work, the canvas is arranged in different manners and variations, sometimes even hung from the ceiling; each piece is thus given an expressive nature that is in constant flux.

Gilliam, who started painting in the early 1960s, courted critical acclaim early on in his career and in 1972 he represented the United States at the 36th Venice Biennale. While his eclectic oeuvre was nurtured by a constant thirst for new ways to push the boundaries of the painterly medium, Gilliam’s commercial success had long skirted the mainstream owing to his disregard for the division in art criticism between minimal objects and post-painterly abstraction. His inclusion in last year’s Venice Biennial, in which he prominently exhibited one of his acclaimed, large-scale Drape installations at the entrance to the main exhibition, signalled the rediscovery of an artist of significant importance and art historical relevance. His wide-ranging influence includes fellow peers from the Washington School but equally younger generations as evident in works such as David Hammons’ Tarp Paintings.

Physically consuming and visually enthralling, After Micro W #2 is a consummate example of how rhythmic undulations, via colour-saturated folds, evoke unprecedented material power. Here, paint has been poured, dabbed, dribbled, and soaked into canvas, either with the aid of tools or straight from cans or tubes. Upon viewing this work, the multitude of compositional possibilities appears seemingly endless. As curator Jonathan P. Binstock has remarked: “The Drapes are not so much presented as they are performed. They live in a constant state of potentiality, even when installed, for any presentation is ultimately only one among innumerable possibilities. The Drapes are essentially events waiting to happen” (Jonathan P. Binstock, ‘Discarding the Frame’, in: Exh. Cat., Washington, D.C., Sam Gilliam: A Retrospective, 2005, p. 47).

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London