• culture

    Sam Gilliam: Breakout Art Star at 85

    In today's instant 20-something art-star world, Sam Gilliam's star is rising after 60 years of creating art

    Sam has been doing more or less the same thing for the last 60 years. Except now his paintings go for $2 million when in the past no one knew his name. Coming from Tupelo, Mississippi, then schooled in Louisville, Kentucky, Mr. Gilliam arrived in Washington D.C. in 1962, and he has lived and worked there ever since.

    But now he is getting some big-time attention. There was last year’s a retrospective at the Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland. “Sam is the great abstract artist who represents a bridge between abstract expressionists of the midcentury and the renaissance that abstraction is enjoying today,” says Jonathan Binstock, a curator of the show.

    There are so many fascinating parts to Sam Gilliam’s work and story. There is the marriage of painting and sculpture, groundbreaking at the time and still awe-inspiring. Have a look at the video below to get a better understanding of what he was doing. The idea of making a painting that is not flat, but not a rigid sculpture either is marvelous.

    Most of the work in this show was done over a period of intense output between 1967 and 1973. He showed in the Venice Biennale back then but remained out of the spotlight, living and toiling quietly in Washington DC, out of the NYC artist glare of celebrity.

    Sam Gilliam, ‘Change,’ 1970.

    We find this somewhat sad, for us viewers anyway, as it would have been nice to have known about his work earlier. But for him, it was fine. Patience and solitude worked out well. This sort of career trajectory is almost unthinkable in today’s instant 20-something art-star world. But there was a time when becoming an artist did not mean celebrity and fancy dinners. It meant a lot of hard work, and probably another job to pay for it.

    Not that one is better than the other: it’s fantastic if one happens to be quickly recognized as a genius — a Mozart or, later, a Basquiat. But there is also something nice about doing the work for the work’s sake.



    David Stewart
    David Stewart
    David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.

    More Stories

    Words in Progress: Pierluca de Carlo

    Pierluca de Carlo, one of the most impressive artists we have met, is having his first LA show Jan 24-Feb 2, 2020 at The...

    Testing Things: The Step Count of the iPhone vs Fitbit 

    Since we have gotten deep into the idea of tracking our steps, a discrepancy has arisen. The iPhone could be counting 9,000 steps while...

    Dr. Bella McCloud, 59: Upward Life Trajectory

    When, two years ago, we last spoke with Bella, she was deep in the long process of getting her Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Then...

    An Outdoor Guy’s Guide to Lifestyle Brands That Resonate

    There has been a lot of brand bashing about companies that just don’t get it when it comes to people like us. Who does...

    5 Ways for Guys to Look Better. Amy Keller, Our Maverick Fashion Stylist

    How do people like Brad Pitt always look so great? It helps to start out looking like Brad, but people in his line of...

    LATEST Profiles

    Dr. Bella McCloud, 59: Upward Life Trajectory

    When, two years ago, we last spoke with Bella, she was deep in the long process of getting her Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Then...

    Joe La Fontaine, 59: Flying High

    Joe La Fontaine, 59, lives the high life, as in the really really high life, flying at 40,000 ft, captaining the world’s largest commercial...

    Norma Kamali, 74: Embracing the Beauty of Age

    At 74, she is now, and has always been, a true future-looking savant, an icon who is just as vital and culturally influential as...