Block Museum Receives Gift of Work By American Artist Sam Gilliam

The Block Museum is pleased to announce a significant gift of a work by artist Sam Gilliam (b. 1933), from the estate of Dawn Clark Netsch from the Collection of  Walter A. Netsch and Dawn Clark Netsch.  One (1970) is a quintessential example of Gilliam’s innovative “drape” paintings which the artist began making in the late 1960’s. Moving beyond the experiments of other painters of the era, Gilliam saturated raw, un-stretched canvas with acrylic to create these works that lie at the intersection of painting and sculpture.

This acquisition represents an important addition to the Block’s small collection of paintings and aligns with the Museum’s goal to collect work by American artists from diverse backgrounds. “We could not pass up the opportunity to take into the collection a work of such significance by an artist of Gilliam’s stature,” notes Block Museum curator Janet Dees.  “I had been a fan of Gilliam’s work since the landmark 2005 retrospective organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC, which traveled to the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY, the Telfair Art Museum, Savannah, GA and the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX.”

Sam Gilliam, Close to Trees (detail), 2011. Acrylic on polypropylene. Image courtesy of Sam Gilliam.  The Block Museum’s gift One (1970) will be photographed after it is installed in consultation with the artist’s studio.

By emphasizing the idea that art need only reflect upon itself, Gilliam has stayed true to his formalist origins, producing experimental work over the past 50 years that resists easy categorization, work that can be positioned somewhere between painting, sculpture, and installation. 

—Charmain Picard, Blouin Art Info

One (1970), which has been rarely exhibited publicly, had previously been part of the private art collection of prominent Chicagoans Walter and Dawn Netsch who had deep ties to Northwestern University.  Walter Netsch (1920-2008), a longtime architect for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, was responsible for the design of several buildings on the university’s campus, including the main library. Dawn Clark Netsch (1926-2013), was a Northwestern alumni who served as an Illinois State Senator and State Comptroller.

The painting will pose the starting point for a tightly focused exhibition curated by Janet Dees in winter 2018.  When the Block is ready to install the work for the first time the museum will work directly  with the artist’s studio to determine the desired hanging configuration and method.  At that time the work will be photographed so that it is presented according to the artist’s intention.

Read More about Sam Gilliam:

Geoff Edgers, “The not-so-simple comeback story of pioneering artist Sam Gilliam,” Washington Post (July 9, 2016)

Jennifer Samet, “Beer with a Painter: Sam Gilliam,” Hyperallergic (March 19, 2016)

Charmain Picard, “In the Studio: Sam Gilliam,”Blouin Art Info (December 17, 2015)

Top Image : Artist Sam Gilliam in his studio (2015) Courtesy Blouin Art Info.  © KRISTINE LARSEN

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