Marsha Mateyka Gallery - Fall season opens with
Sam Gilliam: Paintings
September 17 - October 29, 2011
Reception for the artist: Saturday, September 17th, 4:00 to 6:00 PM
acrylic on canvas, 54 x 60 x 8.5 inches
Tinkerbell's Bookcase, 2010/11
acrylic on canvas, 72 x 46 x 10 inches
Sea Color, 2011
acrylic on birch, 22.5 x 53 x 5 inches
Fog Light, 2008
acrylic on birch, 22.5 x 53 x 2.5 inches
acrylic on canvas, approx. 22 x 23 x 5 inches
Tempo Series: #1, 2009/10
acrylic on nylon, approx. 70 x 38 x 11 inches
Tempo Series: #2, 2009/10
acrylic on nylon, approx. 72 x 36 x 11.5 inches
Tempo Series: #2 detail
Tempo Series: #3, 2009/10
acrylic on nylon, approx. 67 x 32 x 13 inches
Tempo Series: #4, 2009/10
acrylic on nylon, approx. 60 x 36 x 10 inches
Sam Gilliam’s originality, freedom and seemingly inexhaustible combinations of color and form have
made him arguably Washington’s best known living artist. Throughout his long, very distinguished
and prolific career, Sam Gilliam has returned periodically to the drape form. This innovation earned
him international recognition in the late 1960’s. At the time, the artist was
looking for a way to go beyond the traditional distinction between sculpture and painting.
The fall season at the Marsha Mateyka Gallery will open with the exhibition,
“Sam Gilliam: Recent Drape Paintings”. This exhibition contains six mid-size drapes and will
be on view through October 29. It is the third such exhibition at the gallery focusing on
this signature aspect of the artist’s work. The gallery has represented Sam Gilliam since 1998.
2011 has been a dynamic year for Sam Gilliam. Many of his drape paintings, both early and recent have
been on view at museums in Washington, DC. Earlier this year, the Corcoran’s Color Field exhibition,
“Washington Color and Light”, included several of his early works and featured the large pivotal drape
painting, “Light Depth”. In the spring of this year, The Phillips Collection invited the artist to
create a large drape installation,
"Flour Mill", for the museum’s three story, elliptical staircase. This
was followed by the opening of
"Close to Trees", a large scale, spectacular installation of drape
paintings occupying the entire third floor gallery space at the American University Museum, Katzen Center.
The exhibition included a circle of 23 foot high, color soaked pendulums suspended from the ceiling,
as well as several large wall cascades. Also in 2011 (although not a drape), the artist completed a
commission for a large, glass and ceramic, mosaic tile wall at WMATA’s
Takoma Park Metro Station.
Sam Gilliam’s works are in the permanent collections of major museums worldwide. Important drape
paintings include “Bow Form Construction” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, “Ruby Light” at
the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, “Relative” at the National Gallery of Art and “Sea Horses”
at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The Washington Post, Galleries
Friday, October 14, 2011, p. C5
by Mark Jenkins
Skeptics of abstract painting joke a non-figurative canvas can be hung any which way,
without making an aesthetic difference. Sam Gilliam halfway agrees.
The veteran color-field painter knows exactly how he wants his work displayed, but that can change.
His exhibition at Marsha Mateyka Gallery includes four pieces, previously shown at the Katzen gallery,
that have been hung differently and renamed.
"Opened Box A-D" is now "Tempo Series: #1-4".
It's been almost 50 years since Gilliam rebelled against the flat, rectangular canvas,
and he's still finding ways to tweak that traditional format. The four 2009-10 "Tempo"
paintings, which are acrylic on nylon, are joined here by three new works on canvas, whose
colors are less bright and textures more subtle. Where the pigment seems to flow on the
nylon, retaining a sense of fluidity, it seeps into the canvas, melding color and form.
The earlier paintings are stitched together, so that only the drape can change in different
installations; "Tinkerbell's Bookcase" (composed of four pieces) and the knotty "Gordonian"
can be arranged and rearranged, theoretically, in infinite variety.
Sam Gilliam's "Tinkerbell's
Bookcase", on display at
Marsha Mateyka Gallery,
can be arranged and
in infinite ways.
The gallery is also showing, in rotation, two plain old rectangular Gilliam works:
"Sea Color" and "Fog Light". Layering acrylic washes on birch panels, the artist has
crafted a seemingly glazed surface that appears closer to ceramics than painting.
"Fog Light" glimmers like the artist's soft nylon "boxes" but also has the canvas works'
beguiling sense of depth. Painting on a flat surface hasn't limited Gilliam at all.