The Music of Colour

Sam Gilliam 1967–1973

Sam Gilliam (born 1933, Tupelo, Mississippi) is one of America’s most prominent abstract painters.

This catalogue puts the focus on the years between 1967 and 1973, the period of the greatest radicalism in Gilliam’s oeuvre. The paintings he created during these years stand out for their monumentality and forceful use of colour. The canvas becomes a medium that records traces of the production process and exhibits its own physicality.

At a time when painting seemed to be in decline, Gilliam breathed new life into it – jazz was an important source of inspiration for his expressive and energetic style.

The Music of Colour also probes the political and historical dimension of Gilliam’s oeuvre. While the artist himself rarely comments on political issues, the works in his Martin Luther King series and Jail Jungle reflect the 1968 race riots and the highly polarized debate over black art and abstract painting in 1960s and 1970s America.

Published on the occasion of the exhibition, The Music of Color: Sam Gilliam 1967 -1973 at Kunstmuseum Basel (9 June- 20 September 2018).

English and German text.

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