Arrowhead, 1975
Acrylic on handmade paper
37 x 32 ¼ inches

Known for his free, experimental spirit, artist Sam Gilliam’s work epitomizes the evolution of contemporary art through aesthetic exploration. He gained national attention in the 1960s with the debut of his dramatically innovative drape paintings. In the 1970s he began to add sculptural elements to the canvas. Large-scale multimedia installations in public places such as metro stations and airports characterize his work in the 1980s. In the next decade he combined sculpture and painted pieces of acrylic and gel, and aluminum elements. Finally, his latest efforts include creating vividly colored three-dimensional constructions of acrylic on birch plywood often with collage elements. His long illustrious career illustrates his courage to keep exploring, constantly absorbing influences, yet following his own path and creating art that is freshly unique and compelling. His fascination with structured improvisation and his ability to compliment and challenge existing spaces using form, design, color and scale with visual and tactile appeal constantly amazes and invites his viewers into a world of abstraction and ingenuity. Gilliam received a B. A. degree in fine arts and an M.A. degree in painting from the University of Louisville, Kentucky and was also awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1980. As an art teacher in the Washington, D.C. area, prominent art schools and surrounding universities, Gilliam has been the recipient of many commissions, grants, awards, and honorary doctorates since his first grant in 1967 from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is considered by many to be Washington’s preeminent artist. He is recognized as a leading American artist and has exhibited in some of the world’s leading museums and galleries.