Sam Gilliam American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 921

Based in Washington, D.C., Gilliam was long 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.

Whirlirama, Sam Gilliam (American, born Tupelo, Mississippi, 1933–2022 Washington, D.C.), Acrylic on canvas

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