The papers of contemporary Color Field painter and educator Sam Gilliam measure 7.9 linear feet and date from 1957 to 1989. The papers include biographical material, correspondence, writings, business records, printed material, subject files, a scrapbook, artwork, and photographic material that document Gilliam's life from his time as a student through his teaching, professorial, and artistic career. The collection highlights Gilliam's close involvement with the art institutions, racial politics, and artistic innovation taking place in 1960s through 1980s America, specifically in Washington D.C.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of contemporary Color Field painter and educator Sam Gilliam measure 7.9 linear feet and date from 1957 to 1989. The papers include biographical material, correspondence, writings, business records, printed material, subject files, a scrapbook, artwork, and photographic material that document Gilliam's life beginning as a student, through to his teaching, professorial, and artistic career based in Washington D.C. The collection highlights Gilliam's close involvement with the art institutions, racial politics, and artistic innovation taking place in 1960s through 1980s America, specifically in Washington D.C., and showcases the planning and creation of the large scale three-dimensional paintings Gilliam is best known for as a member of the Washington Color School of painting.
Biographical material includes resumes, passports, exhibition lists, artists' statements and essays, interview transcripts and recordings. Also included are audio recordings of conversations between Sam Gilliam and artist Benny Andrews, between Gilliam and artist Rockne Krebs, as well as recordings of a 1968 interview conducted by Dorothy Gilliam.
Correspondence spans over 20 years and includes letters to and from museums and galleries such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Carl Solway Gallery, collectors, artists including David Driskell, friends, family, students, and fans.
Writings include notes, statements, and essays by and about Gilliam, writings by university students of Gilliam, and writings related to Gilliam's artwork and public commissions including measurements for artworks, material research, and information regarding prints created for the private home of Walter Mondale.
Business records primarily include the daily records of activities kept by Sam and Dorothy Gilliam's secretary, Debby, from 1973 to 1978. Also present are resumes for a studio assistant for Gilliam, certificates of originality, legal documents, receipts and invoices, a record of donated paintings, financial records, ledgers, contracts, records and paperwork for the Gilliam's company Enterprise 101, and miscellany.
Printed materials include photocopies, exhibition announcements, magazines, and clippings regarding exhibitions, specific artworks, and commissions, and Gilliam and/or his then-wife, Dorothy Gilliam.
The subject file series contains letters, photographic material, business records, sketches, and printed materials concerning specific galleries, public art commissions, arts organizations, workshops, teaching positions, Gilliam's studio, art suppliers, and other topics.
A disbound scrapbook contains photographs, notes, and printed material related to Gilliam and his studio practice.
The artwork series includes sketches, personal notes, and small preparatory drawings by Gilliam.
Photographic material includes negatives, slides, and transparencies of artworks, Gilliam in his studio, and Gilliam and staff preparing museum and gallery exhibition spaces. Also included are records of student artwork, and photos and slides of artwork sent to Gilliam by students and aspiring artists.
This collection is arranged as 9 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1958-1988, (Box 1; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1965-1989, (Boxes 1-2; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings, 1962-1988, (Box 2; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 4: Business Records, 1957-1986, (Boxes 2-3; 1.0 linear foot)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1962-1987, (Boxes 3-4; 1.0 linear foot)
Series 6: Subject Files, 1963-1988, (Boxes 4-7; 2.2 linear feet)
Series 7: Scrapbook, 1958-1968, (Box 7; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 8: Artwork, 1970-1980, undated, (Boxes 7-9; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 9: Photographic Material, 1960-1985, (Boxes 8-9; 0.3 linear feet)
Biographical / Historical:
Sam Gilliam (1933- ) is an African-American artist based in Washington, D.C. He was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and raised in Louisville, Kentucky where he began painting as a child, eventually attending the University of Louisville where he received his B.A. in Fine Art and M.A. in Painting. He went on to teach art to high school students in the Washington D.C. public school system, and university-level students at the Corcoran School of Art, the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), the University of Maryland, and Carnegie Mellon University. His numerous grants and awards include the 1971 Solomon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and multiple Honorary Doctoral degrees.
As an artist, Gilliam is best known for his three-dimensional draped and suspended paintings, covered with large fields of poured paint, pigment, and colorful staining influenced by the movement and colors of Abstract Expressionist painters. Gilliam went on to become a part of the Washington Color School of painters, where his creation of free-form works flourished. He created many public works that incorporated new materials such as custom designed metal forms, quilted canvas, and textiles; his works often included subtle social commentaries through their titling. His suspended paintings cemented Gilliam as an innovative and influential presence in 20th century American art.
The Sam Gilliam papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by Sam Gilliam in 1989.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Authorization to publish, quote, or reproduce must be obtained from Sam Gilliam.