Los Angeles

Sam Gilliam, Untitled, 1970, watercolor on paper, 13 3⁄4 × 17 1⁄2".

Sam Gilliam

David Kordansky Gallery

“Starting: Works on Paper 1967–1970” was a rare chance to see sixteen of Sam Gilliam’s early, never-before-exhibited works, shown alongside a typeset poem, ca. 1965. Each piece was small in size and expansive in metaphoric scale. The palette ranged from deep and muddy in the 1967 “Rock Creek” series to full-on electric in others. Untitled, 1968, seemed to figure an aurora borealis in an already Technicolor sky, its expansiveness belied by the modest physical dimensions of the vertical page. The overlapping splatters of blue, brown, and yellow in “Rock Creek,” especially in Untitled, 1967, were exuberant in their own way: They preserved the force of the process of their making as an aesthetic of explosive loci of color. Seen together, the works in the series are epic.

“Rock Creek” refers to the park near Gilliam’s home in Washington, DC, where he made the works en plein air, registering

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