Apr 02, 2015 - Sale 2378

Sale 2378 - Lot 94

Price Realized: $ 197,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 40,000 - $ 60,000
SAM GILLIAM (1933 - )

Acrylic on cotton canvas, 1969. 2248x1181 mm; 88 1/2x46 1/2 inches. Signed and dated in ink, verso.

Provenance: acquired directly from the artist (1969); Rockne Krebs; thence by descent to his estate, Washington, DC.

Rockne Krebs (1938 - 2011) and Sam Gilliam shared a close and intertwined history as artists and friends in Washington DC. This painting was part of a trade between the two friends. Krebs was a laser light sculptor and installation artist, who, like Gilliam, was included in "The Washington Color School" that gained notoriety in the late 1960s with critical support from curator and gallery director Walter Hopps. His Washington Gallery of Modern Art gave the two artists a studio grant to their shared Johnson Avenue workshop in 1968. According to Binstock, the two artists worked to make the WGMA studio grant last for 10 years - they eventually bought a studio building together. In 1969, both artists showed together in the exhibition Gilliam, Krebs, McGowin at the Corcoran Gallery.

This large painting is a stunning, early example of the experimental floor paintings made by Sam Gilliam with his "soak-stain" technique in the early 1970s. While Gilliam's unstretched paintings were grabbing the art world's attention, he continued to stretch his canvases, including his important series of six or seven paintings entitled April 4 that, beginning in 1969, marked the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This deeply colored and saturated canvas is on the original beveled-edge stretcher bars, with edges flaring out - by 1970, Gilliam had reversed this and stretched the face of the canvas around the bevel. Jonathan Binstock details the artist's innovative direction at the time: "This kind of stunning soak-stain effect was explored to the extreme in beveled-edge paintings made between 1970 and 1972, such as Red April, Blue Twirl, and Scatter, in which one of Gilliam's main purposes appears to have been to create the most exquisite and improbable color combinations he could imagine." All three paintings mentioned are in museum collections. Binstock pp. 25-26; 92 and 94.