Another passing…

David Manley Avatar

And so another of my heroes is gone. Nowadays its increasingly student rather than childhood ones of course (they are sadly mostly long long!). I recall rifling through one of the US art magazines (Artforum I think) at Exeter College of Art (sadly also no more) and coming across the work of Sam Gilliam.

Sam Gilliam, Swing Sketch, acrylic on canvas with leather cord, installation variable dimensions 1968

At the time I was in thrall to Peter Lanyon and so it was quite a while before I began to think that there might be something in Sam (and also it should be said the early works of Richard Tuttle) that I might exploit (“good artists borrow, great artists steal” – you decide!) on my Diploma course at Falmouth School of Art. It was a lot of fun and I think it was mainly a lack of nerve that saw me revert in my last term to a group of more conventional stretcher bound rectangles.

Untitled, acrylic on canvas, dimensions variable, 1971
Tracerie, acrylic on canvas, dimensions variable, 1971

Sam was recognised at the time as one of the Washington School of colourists and unsurprisingly fell out of fashion as the 70’s progressed. In the twenty first century he came back to prominence as artists of colour (in the other sense) were reappraised and given more attention and as a consequence his work has been much more widely appreciated over the past twenty years or so. Richly deserved I think. He will be missed by anyone with a commitment to abstraction in painting.

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