Pace Gallery is honored to announce representation of Sam Gilliam, marking the first time the artist will be represented by a New York-based gallery in his six-decade career.

Pace has long-championed an innovative and boundary-breaking approach to painting from the work of artists like Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, and Robert Ryman, among many others. Gilliam’s enduring dedication to expanding the very idea of what painting can be is a vital part of this history. Pace will work in close collaboration with David Kordansky, whose Los Angeles-based gallery has represented Gilliam for many years.

 “Sam Gilliam has been a radical and influential artist since his works first appeared on the scene in the mid-sixties. Inventing the path by which the canvas was freed of its support, he transformed the possibilities of picture making internationally. Draping the canvases in space, they invoke natural phenomena, like experiencing the Aurora Borealis…folded, tied, and clinging to the wall like giant butterflies—Sam is relentless in his search for beauty.” - Arne Glimcher

gilliam pace
Sam Gilliam, 10/27/69, 1969, acrylic on canvas, installation dimensions variable, approximate installation dimensions: 140 x 185 x16
inches. Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Photography by Fredrik Nilsen Studio.

One of the leading figures associated with the Washington Color School—a movement initiated in Washington, D.C. in the 1950s that emphasized large fields of color as a response to the Abstract Expressionist works that emerged from the New York School––Gilliam quickly distinguished himself from his peers with the creation of his signature Bevelededge and Drape paintings in the mid- to late 1960s. During these formative years, Gilliam produced the Beveled-edge paintings by folding unstretched canvas before staining it with acrylic paint to create dimensional, lyrical abstractions, which were then stretched across beveled frames. His most radical move came next: introducing the concept of unsupported canvas to his lexicon of painting by creating the Drape paintings. These groundbreaking works composed of stained canvases are suspended from the ceiling or wall, an act that transformed his medium and the context in which it was viewed. Moving beyond an aesthetic proposition, this was also a way of defining art’s role in a society undergoing dramatic social change. After earning international recognition for these innovations, Gilliam became the first AfricanAmerican artist to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1972. Building upon the developments of the 1960s, Gilliam continued to push the boundaries of his practice in the decades that followed, employing new techniques that challenged the traditional understanding of what constitutes the medium  of painting. In the 1980s, he developed his Quilt paintings—a body of work comprised of multiple layers of thick acrylic paint on canvas that are cut into geometric shapes and rearranged into abstract patterns, reminiscent of the AfricanAmerican patchwork quilts from his childhood. Gilliam’s recent works include large-scale paintings on paper and wood, as well as numerous major site-specific public commissions, including Yet Do I Marvel—a new commission for the lobby of the highly anticipated National Museum of African American History and Culture that opened in his hometown of
Washington, D.C. in 2016—and Yves Klein Blue, a large-scale nylon Drape painting presented at the Giardini’s main pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2017. 

Gilliam has been the subject of major museum exhibitions, including, more recently, his first solo survey museum exhibition in Europe mounted at Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland, in 2018. Opening on August 10, 2019, Dia Art Foundation in Beacon will mount a long-term exhibition dedicated to Gilliam’s early work from the 1960s and 1970s, placing his practice in dialogue with his Minimal and Post-minimal contemporaries, such as Robert Ryman and Mary Corse, both Pace artists, who also considered painting in an expanded form. In conjunction with his exhibition at Dia, on November 17, 2019 Gilliam will be honored at the annual Dia Fall Night in New York City. 

In addition to a traveling retrospective organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. in 2005, Sam Gilliam has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1971); The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (1982); Whitney Museum of American Art, Philip Morris Branch, New York (1993); J.B. Speed Memorial Museum, Louisville, Kentucky (1996); Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. (2011); and Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland (2018), among many other institutions. His work is included in over fifty public collections, including those of the Art Institute of Chicago; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Tate, London. Sam Gilliam lives and works in Washington, D.C.