Sam Gilliam, Double Merge, 1968, acrylic on canvas. Installation view, Dia:Beacon, NY, 2019. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio.
LIKE A PAIR OF ENORMOUS PAINT-SOAKED WINGS, Sam Gilliam’s Double Merge, 1968, beckons viewers to enter into the fold. Consisting of two monumental swaths of raw canvas that have been stained, dyed, splattered, and encrusted with paint in a brilliant range of hues and then suspended from ceiling beams in an undulating, contiguous form, Double Merge is at once painting and sculpture, performance and installation, act and artifact. It is also an example of how Gilliam, a pioneer of postwar abstraction associated with the Washington Color School, expanded painting’s rectilinear frame and put pressure on its dialectic of surface and form. In the late 1960s, he experimented with alternative modes of presenting his exquisite stains, eventually arriving at his distinctive thickly beveled stretchers and, most famously, suspensions of immense pigment-streaked scrolls. In homage to the
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