Celebrating another American great in The Yellow Building

This month’s Spotlight on Art surrounds one of the great innovators in post-war American painting, Sam Gilliam. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1933, Gilliam emerged from the Washington cultural scene in the 60s during the height of the Civil Rights Movement – a setting which has been said to have greatly impacted his style as an artist.

Sam Gilliam’s work often incorporates abstract and experimental methods, such as using suspension and wrapped canvas, whilst his preferred watercolours give his art a sense of freedom. Gilliam’s distinct style and methods disrupted and shook the ethos of the Washington Colour School at the time, allowing Gilliam to stand out from his fellow painters.

In his early career Gilliam explored the ways in which painting can be interrogated and redefined, while maintaining certain formal constraints. 

The first approach taken was Gilliam’s inclusion of bevelled-edge stretcher frames, which in turn allows for a more traditional, flat piece of art which can be placed on the wall. A second, more unconventional method, surrounds large swaths of un-primed and unstretched canvas and cloth which are then suspended from the ceiling. This method produces large and unstructured art with a three-dimensional space, adding a further depth to the piece.

One of Sam Gilliam’s most impressive pieces, ‘Red Stanza’ is currently hanging in The Yellow Building’s atrium. We encourage everyone to take a trip down to the atrium to admire this fine art in all its glory- although its rich red colours are hard to miss.

08 November 2021