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Sam Gilliam

April 3 - May 22, 2004

The Marsha Mateyka Gallery is pleased to present its fourth solo exhibition for the renowned American artist, Sam Gilliam. Titled " 3 ", the exhibition presents works from three new series of intimate scaled paintings. In all of these new works, the simple curves and right angles of geometric shapes cut from birch panels contrast with the freely painted surfaces of the panels. Always questioning the boundaries between painting and sculpture, Sam Gilliam has explored many ways throughout his long and distinguished career to break from the tradition of canvas and stretcher - from the large installations of "drapes" to his "constructed" assemblages of acrylic on wood. Always working abstractly, the painter moves back and forth from a baroque style to one of minimal restraint, often within the same period. First affiliated with the Washington Color School, very early in his career, Sam Gilliam is known as a superb colorist with a unique appreciation for the spontaneous.

The three series in "3" all in some way refer to Sam Gilliam's previous works and explorations in acrylic painting on birch panel. The "Fire on Water" series is a continuation of the work featured in the artist's solo exhibition at the Kreeger Museum in 1998. These paintings were among the first in which the artist joined together separately painted panels with piano hinges so that the panels could be moved and the composition altered. In the richly painted "Fire on Water" series, the hinges join two side panels to a central square forming a triptych.

The "Stile" series on view in "3" combines the minimalism of the recent "Slats" with the thickly painted raked surfaces of the artist's works from the 1980's and 1990's. Each "Stile" is a primary color and plays the geometry of a triangle against a half circle. The two shapes are joined together by a piano hinge to form one larger shape. These shapes are differentiated only by surface treatment.

The third new series of paintings in "3" is titled "Birch Like Canvas". These long horizontals feature square wood shapes adhered to the surface of a larger birch panel. The whole is lushly painted and raked in a robust style reminiscent of the large Reagan National Airport commission, completed by the artist in 1997, as well as the much earlier "Black Paintings" series.

On view, concurrent with this exhibition, is "Sam Gilliam: Folded & Hinged" at the Louisiana Art and Science Museum in Baton Rouge, from February 28 through April 8. Thisexhibition is an overview of the artist's paintings of the last 10 years. It travels to the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel, Mississippi ( May 15 through July 3 ). The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC is currently preparing a major retrospective of Sam Gilliam's work which will open at that museum in the fall, 2005.

Sam Gilliam's works are in the permanent collections of all the major museums in Washington, DC as well as many other leading museums including the Metropolitan, MoMA, and Whitney in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, The Menil Collection, the Tate Modern, London, and the Musee d'Arte Moderne, Paris.