Monday, February 18, 2013

African American History Month III: Abstraction

Sam Gilliam (born 1933), Untitled, from Three Prints by Sam Gilliam, 2004. Color offset lithograph on paper, 31.1 x 23.7 cm (12 1/4 x 9 3/8”). Philadelphia Museum of Art, © 2013 Sam Gilliam. (PMA-4217A)

Sam Gilliam is one of my favorite artists because of his explorations of color. He is famous for his draped, splattered, unframed canvases with a gorgeous appreciation for color. I’m always curious why artists who are famed for their painted work start producing prints. I guess I can’t envision myself ever setting up a press in my studio (living room)!

Gilliam has extensively explored paper since in the 1970s. His printed works extend his exploration of color and gesture within the restrains of the lithographic process. He has also produced lithographs that incorporate elements of hand-made paper pulp, enlivening the surface of his prints.

Gilliam, who was born in Mississippi, has figured prominently among African American artists committed to abstract art. He has painted in the Color Field style since graduating from the University of Kentucky and moving to Washington, DC in 1962. Color Field painting and Action Painting were the two “schools” of Abstract Expressionism. Color Field painters began to gain more public attention between 1960 and 1962.

Gilliam associated with two other Color Field painters, Morris Louis (1912–1962) and Kenneth Noland (born 1924). Both artists worked in a more painterly manner than most Color Field painters by staining the canvas, often throwing the paint onto the canvas. The surface was not emphasized as in Action Painting, but rather the interaction of the colors.

Other prints from this portfolio:

Untitled, from Three Prints by Sam Gilliam, 2004. Color offset lithograph on paper, 31.1 x 23.7 cm (12 1/4 x 9 3/8”). Philadelphia Museum of Art, © 2013 Sam Gilliam. (PMA-4217B)

Untitled, from Three Prints by Sam Gilliam, 2004. Color offset lithograph on paper, 31.1 x 23.7 cm (12 1/4 x 9 3/8”). Philadelphia Museum of Art, © 2013 Sam Gilliam. (PMA-4217C)

Three Prints series by Sam Gilliam, 2004. Color offset lithograph on paper, each sheet: 31.1 x 23.7 cm (12 1/4 x 9 3/8”). Philadelphia Museum of Art, © 2013 Sam Gilliam. (PMA-4217)

Studio activity: Color harmonies with pastels that imitate the work explored of Gilliam. Emphasize the unity of the color in the background of the work, and explore cool colors. Pay attention to complementary and secondary colors when introducing shapes on the base color. Do not be concerned with creating an image that is realistic. Explore the color harmonies of the color wheel.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 4: 6.35; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 5.29; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 5.25; Exploring Visual Design: 1, 4, 8

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