Art/ Collection/ Art Object


Sam Gilliam (American, born Tupelo, Mississippi, 1933)
Acrylic on canvas
9 ft. 3 1/4 in. × 9 ft. 7 1/2 in. (282.6 × 293.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund and Pamela Joyner Gift, 2014
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© Sam Gilliam
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 923
Based in Washington, D.C., Gilliam has long been at the forefront of developments in abstract painting. In the 1950s and 1960s, he belonged to the Washington Color School, whose members experimented with novel painting techniques and emphasized color, process, and materiality. To create Whirlirama, Gilliam applied acrylic paint onto raw, unprimed canvas without using brushes, instead staining it like a piece of fabric. After applying flourishes of silver and red, he crumpled the support, causing the paint to smear and the hues to intermingle in unpredictable ways. He then mounted the canvas on a beveled-edge stretcher, reinforcing the physicality of his otherwise ethereal, lyrical painting.
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (back): Whirlirama 70/ S. Gilliam
the artist, Washington, D. C. (1970–2014; sold through David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles to MMA)

Jim Lewis. "Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, and Blue Period." W Magazine (November 28, 2014), p. 88.

Jonathan P. Binstock et al. Sam Gilliam. Exh. cat., David Kordansky Gallery. New York, 2016, ill. pp. 52-53 (color).

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