All posts in “Sam Gilliam”

Muse/News: SAM award news, the Space Needle is a she, and Dr. Seuss at the museum

SAM News

Last week, SAM announced the finalists for this year’s Betty Bowen Award: Andrea Joyce Heimer, Anthony Hudson, Adair Rutledge, Lynne Siefert, and Anthony White.

The solo exhibition of the 2018 winner, Natalie Ball, was reviewed in Art & Object.

“Subverting tropes about Native American identity and art by repurposing familiar materials, Ball points out the absurdity of our assumptions.”

Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness is on regal display on the cover of this week’s Real Change; inside, don’t miss Lisa Edge’s review of the installation.

“Let’s have positive images of ourselves that are done with love,” said Muholi. “Let us consume this self-love because our forefathers, our foremothers that came before us never had the opportunity to speak for themselves.”

Local News

“The Space Needle is a she.” Crosscut’s Brangien Davis on a documentary exploring the hidden history of Seattle’s iconic landmark: its shape may have been inspired by a Black dancer named Syvilla Fort.

The City’s Art Beat Blog has a recap of the recent Creative Advantage Arts Partner Summer Institute, held at SAM; this year’s theme was “exploring the local.”

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig goes home to Wa Na Wari, reviewing the center’s newest show featuring work by several artists, including Nastassja Swift’s video of masked dancers.

“Swift’s video, no more than 10 minutes long, grapples with the concept of home, being home, having a home, feeling at home in one’s body and community. In that way, it fits well at Wa Na Wari. Where do we belong?

Inter/National News

Artforum reports that Werner Kramarsky passed away this week at the age of 93; a formidable collector, he donated 25 drawings to SAM over the years.

Artnet’s Ben Davis takes a look at Dia:Beacon’s new permanent gallery dedicated to Sam Gilliam and his signature “drape” paintings.

The New York Times’ Guy Trebay attends the 16th annual edition of the influential and popular International Folk Art Market, which explodes the art-world schism between fine art and craft.

“It comes out of nowhere, out of nothing,” he added. “There’s not a tradition for it. It’s just some guy saying, ‘I want to make this thing.”

And Finally

Double Dr. Seuss news: Oh, the museums you’ll go!

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Snake” at Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Natali Wiseman.

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Muse/News: Manyness at SAM, nuclear paintings, and the Whitney list

SAM News

Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer is now on view! The Seattle Times featured photos from opening events in their print edition, and Seattle Met, The Stranger, Crosscut, Seattle Gay Scene, and new-to-Seattle art blog The Eye all wrote up the exhibition. What they’re saying:

“Like a Hammer has a manyness, a simultaneous quality that instead of diffusing into some fractured postmodern identity coheres into something singular.” –Stefan Milne

“His practice is largely informed by the ‘in-betweenness’ of the fixed points of identity. And there it blossoms.” –Jasmyne Keimig

“The artist has created a kind of gumbo of new associations, igniting things as disparate as old song lyrics and ab-ex white-boy modernism and indigenous craft with the most vital and urgent of sensations.” –Casey Arguelles Gregory

Seattle Met has their eye on another SAM show, highlighting the upcoming Gentleman Warrior: Art of the Samurai as one of “14 Seattle Events to Catch This Spring”.

Carrie Dedon, SAM’s Assistant Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, contributed her thoughts on painter Sam Gilliam to this Artsy editorial in honor of Black History Month looking at “The Most Influential Living African-American Artists.”

Local News

Crosscut’s David Kroman and Dorothy Edwards follow Doug Latta during his last delivery of the Seattle Weekly; the paper announced this week that after 40 years, it will cease publication.

Special to the Seattle Times, Becs Richards sits down with Jody Kuehner, AKA Cherdonna Shinatra, to discuss her show DITCH, now on view—with daily performances!—at the Frye Art Museum.

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig reviews Nikita Ares’ solo show of “so-bright-they’re-nuclear” paintings in Sugar Babies Only, now on view at Specialist Gallery.

“Bright, vivid, frenetic hues take precedence above all in her paintings, the oiliness of the pastels are rich, creamy, and dirty. They give off their own heat, resembling the energy she puts into it. There’s no tedium to it nor perfection, just like her.”

Inter/National News

Here’s one more celebration for Black History Month: Hyperallergic’s Jasmine Weber asks seven notable arts figures to name Black artists overlooked by the canon who they cherish.

This year’s Venice Biennale will host Ghana’s first national pavilion. It’s designed by celebrated architect David Adjaye and will feature work by John Akomfrah, El Anatsui, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

The 75 participating artists in this year’s Whitney Biennial were announced this week; the list includes Jeffrey Gibson and Disguise artist Brendan Fernandes.

“To its curators, the 2019 biennial feels very much like a product of its time, with artists ‘grappling with questions about race, gender, financial inequality, gentrification, the vulnerability of the body,’ said Ms. Panetta. But she added that the work in the show mostly strikes a tone that’s less ‘agitprop-like or angry’ than one might expect in 2019. ‘It’s really work that feels more productive, forward looking, with a kind of optimistic and hopeful tenor to it.’”

And Finally

Alert: The Prince Estate has released a library of Prince GIFs. You’re welcome.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer at Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Natali Wiseman.
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Object of the Week: Union

Sam Gilliam’s 1977 painting Union tantalizes with its tactility. It’s rhythm, texture, color, and shade; bright and inviting, dark and rough. It’s free-form abstraction raked as a zen garden, and grounded by geometric shape.

Over the course of his career Gilliam has shown a deep interest in painting as a physical process. He made waves in the art world in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when he displayed paint on canvas in innovative ways. He began suspending his canvases, hanging them by corners like linen sheets on a laundry line, or pinning them up at certain points, allowing the canvas to cascade downward in thick, heavy folds. While this body of work created a sculptural experience of the canvas, his series of Black Paintings, of which Union is a prime example, created a sculptural experience with paint. In these works he used a shag-rug rake to create a notched surface texture that unifies the painting.

Interestingly, Gilliam started out as a representational painter. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1933, he studied at the University of Louisville, earning his BA in 1955 and his MA in 1961. In the ‘60s he relocated to Washington, DC, where fate awaited. In DC Gilliam joined up with the artists who would become known as the Washington Color School—a group working in abstract modes to press the expressive potential of color.

In his own milieu Gilliam was a sponge, always soaking up wisdom, but also dispensing it. Discussing artists who have influenced him in a recent interview, he begins with Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis but covers a staggering range after them, speaking smoothly on Paul Klee, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Yvonne Rainer, Claude Monet, Georges Braque, Arthur Dove, Tintoretto, Alice Denney, Jan van Eyck, and David Smith. Add to that mix: jazz music, especially the tunes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk; curators like Walter Hopps, one-time director of the Washington Gallery of Modern Art; symbols, like the American flag; and Washington’s urban design, its circular hub and radiating arteries.[1] Gilliam links his own productivity with his ability to recognize fine material: “There’s a mental connection that’s very good between the activity of painting and, let’s say, the visual and the listening process from the outside, which is always stimulating.”[2]

Though Gilliam’s beginnings were tied to the figure, his future was bound in colorful abstraction. His first one-man show in DC, held at Adams-Morgan Gallery in 1963, featured exclusively representational paintings, while his second show, held just a year later, featured no representational works.[3] Gilliam recounts that one of the DC artists, Tom Downing, played a large part in encouraging this shift: “Tom saw an exhibition of mine that was entirely figurative plus a series of watercolors on a grid, which were Klee-like. He suggested that, obviously, the figurative painting was unnecessary and that the watercolors were right in. So, I guess he’s the one that got me started making abstract paintings.”[4]

Gilliam’s work now graces prominent collections all over the country, and his Black Paintings have been collected by many important museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Denver Art Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. We can safely say that his influences, and his innovations, have served him well.

Check out Union and a group of earlier paintings in the Sam Gilliam exhibition on view now at SAM!

– Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

Image: Union, 1977, Sam Gilliam (American, b. 1933), acrylic on canvas, 55 x 65 ½ in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Peirolo, 82.117 © Copyright the artist. Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.
[1] Sam Gilliam, interview with Peter Halley, March 29, 2016, reproduced in Sam Gilliam. Ex. Cat. Los Angeles: David Kordansky Gallery, 2017; 82-92.
[2] Sam Gilliam, 92.
[3] Gilliam/Edwards/Williams: Extensions. Ex. Cat. Hartford, Conn.: Wadsworth Atheneum, 1974; 15.
[4] Sam Gilliam, interview with Peter Halley, March 29, 2016, reproduced in Sam Gilliam. Ex. Cat. Los Angeles: David Kordansky Gallery, 2017; 82.
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Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: Emily Jones

The middle daughter of three girls, Emily Jones grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, IL. She soon longed for adventure and moved to the city to attend Columbia College in 2008. She graduated in 2012 with a major in Creative Writing and minor in Black World Studies. Her coursework in bookbinding, cartooning, and metalsmithing affirmed her passion for working with her hands. Her love for the arts led her to seek employment in the museum shop at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she daily visited two of her favorite paintings: George Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte and Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day. After two long years at an office job in the promotional products industry, Emily decided to shake things up. In 2016, she made the cross-country journey from Chicago’s Logan Square area to West Seattle (in the dead of winter) with her aquatic turtle, Flapjack, and handsome tuxedo cat, Duke Ellington. It is there that she can be found toiling in her greenhouse or frolicking on the beach with Duke.

SAM was naturally calling her name.

SAM: What do you think of the Sam Gilliam installation (May 6–November 26)? 

Emily: Holy Color! I love this gallery. I am particularly drawn to Union. I can’t imagine having to handle and care for that painting with all the textured pieces and chunks of paint. Another VSO showed me a few pictures of his draped work and it is spectacular. My mind just keeps trying to imagine a garment made out of his colorful polypropylene fabric. It has a beautiful sheen to it.

What is your favorite piece of art currently on display at SAM?

I have such a hard time picking favorites! I am pretty in love with Der Orden der Nacht by Anselm Kiefer lately. It wasn’t my favorite at first but the more I stared, the more enamored I became. A lot of people see it and remark about how the man looks dead, but to me he looks completely at peace. Although the scenery is completely haunting (a sunlit haze over a field of looming dead sunflowers) and a little creepy, I can’t help but imagine what it must’ve looked like ablaze with yellow, alive and lush. That man lying beneath those flowers knows what I’m talking about.

I also really enjoy dissecting the craftsmanship in the Men’s tunic from Cameroon in  . There is so much appliqué and embroidery. I’m also obsessed with all of the jewelry pieces we have—especially the gold serpent bracelet in the Ancient Art gallery and all of the Maassai beadwork and Fulani earrings.

Who is your favorite artist? 

Again too many favorites! I love the impressionists and art nouveau. I’m a sucker for the female form and flowers. That being said Alphonse Mucha comes to mind. The way he adorns women (swoon). Beautiful!

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM? 

See it all! You never know what you are going to glean inspiration from and appreciate. It’s not aways the things you expect to like that you fall in love with. You might be surprised.

And put down your phones! I know I am guilty of this too sometimes but there is nothing worse than when I see people texting, not even looking at the art, or just snapping quick, blurry pictures that they will probably never look at again, and moving on. You really can’t get scale or the impact of an artwork from a picture. If you really love it, take the time to stop and stare for a few moments—maybe even minutes—and really connect with the piece first. Being at a museum is an experience. Savor it.

Tell us more about you! When you’re not at SAM, what do you spend your time doing?

My favorite things to do are travel and visit other museums. I love to be outside, so hiking, running, and kayaking are a regular occurrence. I also enjoy seeing live music and am an avid reader who loves comics and graphic novels. I am always trying to make more time to create art and explore new mediums. I just started volunteering at the Northwest African American Museum and am interested in volunteering with the Frye Art Museum as well. I can’t imagine life without art, so I intend to drown in it.

Katherine Humphreys, SAM Visitor Services Officer

Photo: Natali Wiseman.
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