Exploring Gilliam

For a number of years, Alex Cooper has been successfully selling the work of Washington Color School Artist, Sam Gilliam.  A wide variety of works and mediums have crossed through our doors, each one more exciting than the previous.  We have also proudly represented the collection and body of work of Evangeline J. Montgomery “EJ” who famously showed Gilliam’s work for the first time in Europe during her time at the State Department.  Collectors and fans of the artist are buzzing about the current exhibition “Sam Gilliam: Full Circle” on view at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC.  It is definitely a great moment in time for Sam Gilliam.

Sam Gilliam: Full Circle - Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden | Smithsonian (si.edu)

The June Gallery Auction, in addition to being headlined by the renowned Ford Collection (a collaboration with Galerie Myrtis) will bring six more Gilliam’s to the auction block.  This mini collection is notable due to its variety of styles and medium representing the many periods and phases of the artist.  As well, the collection represents a wide range of pricing which appeals to all levels of collectors.

Sam Gilliam Acrylic

Lot 1320, “Atlantis” is the opening lot.  From 2005, this mixed media construction features movable hinged panels and is acrylic on polypropylene on birch plywood.  At 54 x 48 inches, this work is a statement piece and the moveable hinges allow the piece alter its appearance to suit the tastes of the owner.

Sam Gilliam Watercolor

An early watercolor from 1970 is offered at Lot 1320a.  The untitled piece is vibrantly colored and organic in its movement.  I haven’t had the pleasure of selling a Gilliam watercolor before and that makes this one a particular favorite. Plus, the orange is amazing.

Sam Gilliam India Ink and Eyes

An unusual mixed media work of India ink and dyes on folded paper is featured as Lot 1321.  Encased in a plexiglass box, this work from 1978 is reminiscent of the draped works we associate with the artist.  It is an understated piece that becomes more and more complex the longer you look at it. 

Sam Gilliam Acrylic

Another favorite is Lot 1322, and untitled acrylic on torn paper.  I love the texture of this piece and the colors.  The raked technique which appears in Gilliam’s constructions is visible in this work.  The use of the geometric cutout space in the middle draws the eye in and offers a pause from the movement of the rest of the piece. 

Sam Gilliam Mixed Media

If you are fan of Gilliam’s mixed media folded paper works, you will not want to miss Lot 1323.  Created in 1971, the work is made with watercolor, ink and aluminum powder on hand made paper.  I love the use of the brown and the softness of the paper.

Sam Gilliam St. Albans Silkscreen

Lastly, the entry level piece featured as Lot 1324 is “St. Alban’s” a silkscreen from 1976.  Another print is currently on exhibition at the John and Mable Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL, and features the work from collectors in the DC area, many of whom know the artist.  For more information on the Ringling Show Sam Gilliam: Selections On View at The Ringling - Mary Ryan Gallery

For more information on the Gilliam’s or other lots in the June auction, click here.  To view a quick video about the artist click here.

Happy Collecting!

Kathleen Hamill
Director, Modern and Contemporary Art
Fine Arts Appraiser, USPAP