Catalogue entry

Sam Gilliam born 1933

T01326 Simmering 1970

Inscribed '85 x 52" | Sam Gilliam' on back of canvas, at top
Suspended painting in acrylic on canvas, 85 x 53 1/4 (215.5 x 135.3) (full canvas size, apart from a 30 1/4 (76.8) more or less semi-circular section folded forward at the top)
Presented by Mrs Nesta Dorrance through the American Federation of Arts 1974
Prov: Mrs Nesta Dorrance, Washington (purchased from the artist)

This painted canvas is intended to hang against a wall, suspended from a single point, with the 'cape' spread out sideways and the bottom just above the floor.

The artist has written of it (letter of 19 August 1975): 'It is called Simmering, was painted in 1970, and has not been exhibited. It is part of a series called "Cowls", made in 1970 and exhibited in Washington, DC at the Jefferson Place Gallery. In subsequent years, works of this series have been called capes, or half circle forms.

'Starting in 1968, after a series of exploratory watercolors, I began to experiment with hanging large canvases to the wall of the studio by tacking them directly. Initially, because it was directly related to painting them flat on the floor. Later, it freed one of the work of making stretchers for them. Still later, under the influence of both shaped canvases in general, and the work of Morris Louis, I started hanging 75-foot lengths of canvas in my studio, upon which I stained paint. After much consideration, I decided to exhibit the works unstretched, realizing that the softness and malleability of the canvas was in context a way of combining not only painting and drawing simultaneously, but also influencing shape and composition.

'In 1969, I exhibited the first of large works both on and off the wall as part of an exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. In 1970, I started making a series of single panel, small, one and two pointed works, of which your painting is an example. The works were begun on the floor by pouring and layering various densities of thinned-out acrylic pigment onto cotton duck canvas.

'Finally, the work was completed by being allowed to dry and drain in the air. In instances, paint was then poured or applied while the painting was suspended.'

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.286-7, reproduced p.286