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Sam Gilliam Jr.
#8, To Repin, To Repin
acrylic on canvas
79 × 90 7/8 × 3 1/2 inches (200.7 × 230.8 × 8.9 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Alfred and Lillian Hertel.
Accession Number
Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Sam Gilliam is internationally recognized as one of America’s foremost African American artists. Carrying the legacy of Abstract Expressionism, and associated to the Washington Color School, his work became notably known in the 1960s when, inspired by the sight of women hanging laundry on clotheslines, Gilliam began exploring the capacities of the canvas outside of its traditional form, developing a spontaneous technique of saturating canvases with paint and then suspending them from ceilings and walls without traditional stretcher supports. Gilliam’s open-ended approach to aesthetic invention is self-described as “renewal without repetition.”

This painting-sculpture hybrid work offers new ways of understanding color, form, and structure. #8 To Repin, To Repin is part of his 17-canvas series called Chasers. Each “Chaser” has an element at the upper right which is balanced by the rest of the composition, and each one has been stretched on a deep nine-sided, beveled-edge support. This work pays homage to Ilya Repin (1844-1930) the great portraitist and history painter and one of Russia’s foremost national artists.

During the 1980s, Gilliam’s work was characterized by multiple layers of acrylic paint on the canvas, creating dramatic textural effects. This work has a “quilted” appearance due to the rearranged cut geometric shapes in the canvas, which could be reminiscent of American quilt making traditions.