The abstract art painter Gilliam, known for his colorful canvases left free from the frames on which they are usually attached, died Saturday at the age of 88, two galleries that collaborated with him announced on Monday June 27. The artist, born in 1933 in the state of Mississippi and who was the first African-American to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1972, died at his home in Washington of kidney failure, according to the New York Times.

“Sam Gilliam was one of the giants of modernism,” said Arne Glimcher, the founder of Pace Gallery, as quoted in the statement. “Sam embodied a vital spirit of freedom, achieved with courage, ferocity, sensitivity and poetry,” added David Kordansky, of the gallery of the same name.

It was at the end of the 1960s that Sam Gilliam, who had already painted his colored forms on folded canvases before stretching them on their frames, produced some of his most emblematic works, the Drapes, by completely ridding his canvases from their wooden supports to let them fall freely from the ceiling or walls.

“These groundbreaking works (…) changed the history of art,” write the gallerists. “Gilliam transformed the medium of painting and its relationship to the spatial and architectural context in which it is viewed. »

“1968 was a year of revelation and determination,” the artist said in the statement. “Something was in the air and it was partly in that spirit that I painted the Drapes. Three of these paintings are currently on display at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, in Paris, as part of the exhibition “La Couleur en fugue”, until August 29, 2022.