V

Narratives of African American Art and Identity

Sam Gilliam

From The D Series, 1982

Mixed media on canvas

32" x 42"


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From The D Series

An abstract painter for more than thirty years, Sam Gilliam has worked through the Abstract Expressionism and Washington Color Field school movements to create his own unique style. Known as the "father of the draped canvas," Gilliam rose to fame in the 1960s by liberating the canvas from its frame, draping it from leather strings, and hanging it at the owner's discretion. This blurring of painting and sculpture is continued in The D Series. It also marks the end of narrative compositions for Gilliam, for this series is his first nonobjective, completely abstract work.

At the bottom right-hand corner of the canvas, a small, brightly painted metal D-shape is attached to the rectangular composition. This allows the composition to exist in three-dimensional space. The canvas itself is a rich collage of textures and patterns produced by paint and mixed media. While working to situate himself through multiple Western movements, Gilliam is systematically recalling his African and African American heritage. The rhythmic patchwork-like quality of the canvas is reminiscent of African American "crazy quilts" of the deep South and also of asymmetric West African textile prints.   K. A. K.

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