Sam Gilliam’s off-the-frame genius

Photo by Courtesy Marsha Mateyka Gallery
Sam Gilliam "Close to Trees"  2011 a site-specific installation, detail.
Sam Gilliam "Close to Trees" 2011 a site-specific installation, detail.


A review by Gerald Allan Schwinn


Sam Gilliam’s paintings in the show at the Katzen Art Center at American University are truly amazing.  They cry out to be embraced.  But don’t.  Just look and imagine.

In the show’s brochure, Jack Rasmussen says Gilliam’s intention is “to take over the space and not confine painting to the picture plane.”  And at the Katzen, Gilliam’s paintings take over the 3rd floor with his off-the-frame works  – some extend from the walls, some move from the wall to the floor, some hang from the ceiling and turn.  All of the works display a brilliant mix of colors – lots of oranges and yellows and blues but also black and maroon.

Along with the range of colors, there are the creases and wrinkles that form an endless variety of shapes.  The texture of the cloth (not always the same material) adds another fascinating dimension.  Sam Gilliam in these paintings at the Katzen has produced a body of work that merits a long look.

To see how these effects are created, view the earlier video of the artist at work:  Fireflies & Ferris Wheels .


Of other works on display, two pieces standout from the 1st year MFA show on the 2nd floor:

·        Joo Yeon Ha has drawn a large, intricate work on paper using black and red ball point pens.  The intricate weaving of the lines and the color can sustain as close a look as one of Sam Gilliam’s paintings in the show.

·        Camden Pace demonstrates a good deal of skill in his carved and inked sheets of plywood.   The technique and the realism of his portraits capture one’s attention immediately. 

The Giliiam paintings will be on display until August 14.  The MFA works come down on the 11th of April to be replaced by the thesis work of 2nd year MFA students.