Some months ago, I had the privilege to attend a talk by Washington's beloved artist Sam Gilliam, one of the most down-to-earth people anyone could hope to meet. He is a marvelous storyteller, with much to say about his early forays into art-making and what art-making means to him. He entrances when he talks about art. And when he speaks, you can't help but notice his huge hands, how he uses them to make a point, to invite you into the conversation, to show you how his brush might sweep across canvas or, delightedly, where in a painting you might first want to look to understand what the artist is showing you.
I try never to miss a show of Gilliam's work — and this year, we in the D.C. area have been fortunate to find Gilliam at The Phillips Collection, where his Flour Mill was in place from January 29 to April 24; at the Katzen Museum at American University, where, from April 2 to August 14, his Close to Trees transformed 8,000 square feet of exhibition space on the third floor; and at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, which included Gilliam's expressive 75-foot draped canvas Light Depth in its "Washington Color and Light" exhibition from November 20, 2010, to March 6, 2011 and June 25, 2011 to August 14, 2011. Gilliam also was the subject of a wonderful retrospective at the Corcoran in 2005-2006.
Gilliam, all Washington-Maryland-Virginia residents should be delighted to learn, has created a mural for the Takoma (Maryland) Metro station: From a Model to a Rainbow. Commissioned by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and Metro Art in Transit Program, and unveiled June 11, the piece is signature Gilliam, and stunning. In the video below, Gilliam talks about his installation (can you hear the joy in his voice when talks art?). A mosaic of colorful ceramic and glass tiles mounted on aluminum, the mural is more than 400 square feet and weighs a ton.
To learn more about Gilliam's Metro piece, see: "In a Station of the Metro, an Apparition of Color From Sam Gilliam", PBS NewsHour Art Beat, August 18, 2011.
"A Collaborative Tour de Force: Mosaic Mural 'From a Model to a Rainbow'" at Mosaic Art Now, where my friend Nancie has posted a superb array of close-ups of Gilliam's mural.
Exhibition Brochure for "Sam Gilliam: Close to Trees"; Installation Views
Press Release for Corcoran Gallery's "Washington Color and Light"
Sam Gilliam Interview with Kojo Nnamdi, Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU, May 2011 (Transcript)
Jacqueline Trescott, "Sam Gilliam: An Ever-Changing Force", The Washington Post, January 30, 2011
Washington Color School