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Mars at Angles

Sam Gilliam

Mars at Angles

Sam Gilliam
  • Date: 1978
  • Style: Lyrical Abstraction
  • Genre: sculpture

With the aid of new materials, such as polypropylene, Gilliam was able to bring his billowing images off the wall, or stand them, sometimes on wooden armatures, as though they were sculptures. But in fact, Gilliam's images are always envisioned as paintings, albeit paintings that like topological descriptions could be enfolded, draped, or given virtual cavities and real cavities, depending on his pictorial intention. Like the early Russian master Vladimir Tatlin, Gilliam was keenly aware of the spatial advantages of the triangular form implicit in corners, or, as the title of this work suggests, angles. In Mars at Angles, he takes full advantage of the shadowy space secreted behind his painting. The gorgeous panoply of color cascading from a single point in the ceiling, and attached at the two angles of the walls, suggests a hidden axis in the very depths of the corner. The flow of Gilliam's drapes, so suggestive of a Renaissance baldacchino, a canopy of richly woven fabric, seems free of the composer's intention, but in fact, is carefully controlled to offer structural coherence. There are hidden geometric axes and diagonals here that are quite as explicitly structural as a painting by one of the great Renaissance masters of drapery, such as the Venetian, Paolo Veronese. Despite its three-dimensional aspect, this work is fundamentally a painting, in which earlier conventions are revitalized in a free experimental spirit.

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