Paddle8, New York, 29 September 2016, Lot 51
Acquired from the above by the present owner
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).
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