Legendary Artist Sam Gilliam’s Cause of Death Announced
Sam Gilliam, the color field painter, sadly passed away at his home in Washington, D.C. on June 25, 2022. Sam Gilliam’s cause of death was announced after his death at the age of 88.
The heartbreaking news of Sam Gilliam’s death was announced by the David Kordansky Gallery in LA and the Pace Gallery, NY.
He was associated with the Washington Color School and Contemporary art movement, a group of artists that developed a form of abstract art from color field painting.
His works have been described as belonging to lyrical abstraction and abstract expressionism. He worked on stretched, draped, and wrapped canvas, and also added sculptural 3D elements.
The artist was recognized as the 1st artist to introduce the idea of a draped, painted canvas hanging with no stretcher bars around 1965. The idea was a major contribution to the Color Field School and also has a lasting impact on the contemporary art canon.
In his later work, Sam worked with polypropylene, metallic and iridescent acrylics, handmade paper, computer-generated imaging, aluminum, steel, plastic, and plywood.
In 1962, Gilliam married Dorothy Butler, the first African-American female columnist at The Washington Post. The pair divorced in the 1980s but shared three daughters (Stephanie, Melissa, and Leah. They also have three grandchildren.
After the divorce, the artist met Annie Gawlak, owner of the former G Fine Art gallery in Washington D.C. The couple married in 2018 after a 35-year partnership.
In the 1960s, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed lithium. The great artist lived in Washington D.C. but in 2010 sold his studio for $3.85 million.
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Sam Gilliam’s Cause of Death Revealed
Sam Gilliam’s cause of death was reported after his passing on Saturday at his home in Washington. According to reliable sources, the legendary artist died of kidney failure.
He was influenced by German Expressionists such as Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, and the American Bay Area Figurative School artist Nathan Oliveira.
Early influences included Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis. Sam said that he found many clues about how to go about his work from Hans Hofmann, Georges Braque, Tatlin, Frank Stella, Pablo Picasso, and Paul Cézanne.
In 1963, Thomas Downing introduced him to this new school of thought. Around 1965, he became the 1st painter to introduce the idea of the unsupported canvas.
Gilliam said that his paintings are based on the truth that the framework of the painting is in real space. Sam was attracted to its power and the way it functions.
His draped canvases change in each environment where they are arranged and he embellished the works with rocks, metal, and wooden beams.
Gilliam received countless public and private commissions for his draped canvases which earned Sam the title of the “father of the draped canvas.”
One of Sam’s last, and largest, works within this series was titled Seahorses, made in 1975 for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This work consisted of 6 parts and was made of hundreds of feet of canvas.
He veered away from the draped canvases in 1975 and became influenced by jazz musicians such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Sam started producing dynamic geometric collages, which Sam called “Black Paintings” because they are painted in shades of black.
His style changed dramatically once more in the 1980s. The transition between his two styles can be seen in his Wild Goose Chase series.
After the sad news of Sam Gilliam’s death was revealed, his friends and fans quickly flooded social media with tribute messages. Many fans also took to Twitter to pay tributes to him.
“Artist Sam Gilliam’s work is known for its unsettling beauty. I drew inspiration from my visits to his studio here in DC and am grateful to have known him. I extend my condolences to his family, friends, and community. This is his “Swing” in the collection of our @americanart,” Lonnie G. Bunch III wrote.
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