Remembering Sam Gilliam

July 1, 2022

Sam Gilliam

Double Rouge, 1981. © Sam Gilliam

by Danielle Towers, Photojournalism ’23


Renowned artist and DC native Sam Gilliam passed away on June 25, 2022 at the age of 88. Gilliam is best known for his “drape” work, which broke through and expanded upon tenets of Abstract Expression. His large scale drape works merge painting and sculpture, utilizing richly painted, stained fabric, suspended and hung from ceilings and strung across walls. Gilliam’s art is informed by his lived experiences as a Black man living in the nation’s capital during the height of the Civil Rights Movement as well as his interest in improvisational jazz and experimentation.


Gilliam was a relatively unknown art teacher in the D.C. area when he first gained international acclaim in 1969 with his inaugural exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.


​​The GW Collection, overseen by the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, located in the Corcoran Flagg Building, has been collecting Gilliam's work since 1969. Several of the artist's 11 works in the GW Collection are highlighted below.


A piece of Gilliam’s work, White Sand Isolate (1980), is currently being cleaned and the canvas tightened to help preserve the artwork.


The public is invited to see the restoration in process at the Corcoran by the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, located at 500 17th St NW: Thursday, July 7th, Friday, July 8th, Thursday, July 14th, Thursday, July 21, and Friday, July 22 from 10 am-4 pm.


You can also see all of Gilliam’s work in the GW Collection online.