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PRINT September 1970

Sam Gilliam: Certain Attitudes

THE PRESUMPTIVE CATEGORIES “PAINTING,” and “sculpture” do not apply to the recent works of Sam Gilliam; nor do such otherwise useful hybrid terms as “shaped canvas,” or “combines.” The word “situation” seems appropriate, carrying as it does connotations of place or locality and also of conditions and circumstances that are only metaphorically spatial.

Draping painted canvas out into the space of a room came out of necessity and after a long period of experimentation. The form did not arise from the desire to devise a new type of art object, but out of the pressures of deeply felt visual, kinetic, tactile emotional experience. For a time, Gilliam actually seems to have resisted the urge to let the paintings move:

“. . . . but the point was that there is a tradition involved that you could not [ignore]. You know it’s hard for a painter to think in terms of sculpture. And after pushing it back

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