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posted by CAA — Jun 30, 2022

Photograph provided by Pace Gallery

Sam Gilliam, the famous and groundbreaking abstract American painter, died in his home in Washington D.C. on June 25 at the age of 88. A part of the Washington Color Field painters of the 1960s, Gilliam freed his paintings from traditional supports and became well known for draping and folding his abstract canvases. Interested in color, form, and process, his approach combined painting with sculpture, and used pouring and staining techniques to create broad fields of color.

His works are included in many of the nation’s most prominent art collections and museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, and the National Gallery of Art.

Gilliam’s enormous draped canvases were the most visible aspect of his career, but he also supported his fellow artists through collectives, mentorship, and service. As a lifetime member of CAA he contributed actively to the CAA community in myriad ways – donating artwork, serving on juries for our distinguished awards, serving on committees, and sitting on our board of directors.

As the chair of the Sub-Committee on Public Art of the CAA Artists’ Committee he helped draft our 1987 standards and guidelines for public artworks. This was revised and reapproved in February of 2022 and remains a canonical guide for artists working in the public realm.

He also donated artwork alongside Kiki Smith, Faith Ringgold, and Miriam Shapiro to support CAA’s Professional Development Fellowship Program in the early 2000s.

In addition, he volunteered his time as a board member from 1985-1988 and served on our juries for the CAA Artist Award for a Distinguished Body of Work and Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Read more about his career here.

CAA is grateful for the work Sam Gilliam has done and the energy and inspiration he brought to the CAA community.
Filed under: Obituaries