The Color Black

01.31.14

Abstraction Colored by Race

Sam Gilliam works with form and hue, but we always see history in it.
Sam Gilliam’s “One Thunder”, from 1970
(Courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery)

This is Sam Gilliam’s “One Thunder”, from a show at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery on abstraction by Black artists ­– about as vexed a subject as you could ask for. Does Blackness, as a social color, change the hue of all the other colors it touches? Does the very fact of a Black artist not working with figuration, and not addressing issues of race, become a salient refusal – and therefore as political as anything else? This 1970 Gilliam strikes me as notably concise and self-contained, from an artist who hit his stride by sprawling work across rooms. It also evokes the pointed hood and robes of a Klansman.

This is the last Daily Pic to be cross-posted to TheDailyBeast.com. The series will continue uninterrupted at BlakeGopnik.com, and there should be news soon about a new second venue.