American, b. 1933
King of Prussia, 1980
Acrylic on canvas
80 x 90 1/4 inches
Signed, titled and dated on the reverse
Sam Gilliam is best known as a color-field abstractionist of the Washington Color School, a loosely-affiliated movement of artists founded by Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland in the 1950s. However, he experimented with a number of styles throughout his long and varied career and has since remained a committed and experimental artist. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1933, he attended the University of Louisville, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. After graduating, Gilliam moved to Washington, D.C. in 1962, where he has lived ever since. Motivated by Abstract Expressionism, Gilliam experimented with various methods of paint application during the 1960s; he poured paint, stained canvases, and folded the canvas while still wet. The resulting three-dimensional works of art allowed Gilliam to reconsider the role of the traditional canvas and stretcher bar support. In 1965, he became one the first painters to work without the stretcher, constituting a major development in the history of art. His radical approach to painting blurred the lines between painting and sculpture. Gilliam received numerous accolades within the art world, and he quickly earned public and private commissions for his draped canvases. The Chaser series is a group of collage paintings, in which Gilliam painted the canvases, cut them, and recombined the pieces on a two-dimensional, geometric surface. The present work, King of Prussia, is among the paintings in this series and demonstrates the artist’s love for paint, texture, and shape. Within the nine-sided support, Gilliam has painted in an all-over style using expressionist splatters of red, yellow, and blue paint.