Sam Gilliam: Driftless
@ Corbett vs. Dempsey
2156 W Fulton St, Chicago, IL 60612
Opening Friday, March 17th, from 6PM - 8PM
On view through Saturday, April 29th
Starting in 1972, at the Jones Road Print Shop and Stable, located in a dairy barn in the area of southwest Wisconsin known as the Driftless, renowned painter Sam Gilliam began what would be a career-spanning relationship with master printer and printmaker Bill Weege. Driftless presents the fruits of their partnership, which made use of all manner of print techniques—known and unknown, sometimes involving papers that were handmade in the studio or parts that were hand-sewn together, a specialty of Weege’s—and many unusual and innovative painting methods. Working at Jones Road, Tandem Press, and later at Weege’s home studio, Gilliam made brilliant, vividly colored, exploratory abstractions. Gilliam and Weege were relentless experimenters from the very first print they made together, which was made by Gilliam painting directly onto the bed of an offset proofing press. Gilliam would often propose a possible way to make an artwork or an intended result and Weege would figure out a way to do it. This included such unorthodox ideas as leaching paint onto substrates that had been buried in the earth or using a tractor to drag loose canvas across fields strewn with paint and ink, both possible in Weege’s rural printmaking compound. The two artists collaborated every summer for 45 years, with Gilliam traveling to Wisconsin and setting up shop, sometimes with his family. One of their final collaborations in the Driftless resulted in the sweeping draped work Yves Klein Blue that Gilliam hung above the entrance to the Central Pavillion in the Giardini at the Venice Biennale in 2017. Gilliam had been the first Black U.S. representative in Venice in 1972 (two years earlier, Weege had exhibited at the Biennale and created a scandal by handing out freshly made “Impeach Nixon” prints). Known especially as a pioneer of unstretched canvas, Gilliam worked for seven decades in a staggering variety of media. Based throughout his career in Washington, D.C., he was immensely influential on a national and international level from the time of his important 1969 solo exhibition at the Corcoran until his passing in 2022, at the age of 88. Over the years, Gilliam acknowledged the central significance of his working partnership with Weege, with whom he traveled the world, mounting presentations supported by the U.S. State Department. Speaking of their exploratory working methods, Weege once said: “The great thing about Sam Gilliam is that a lot of the stuff that we produced, or I helped produce, I’d go: ‘This is not gonna make it.’ And he would always have a way of staging it that became beautiful. It was just such a treat to have that happen with things that you thought you were never going to be able to save. And it always turned out well.” In Driftless, CvsD presents a selection of editioned printworks by Gilliam as well as unique monoprints and paintings using print techniques, dating back to his very first collaboration with Weege, with special attention to the early years of their work together in the 1970s. In addition to the prints, the exhibition includes a large diptych from the late 1970s that hung with pride of place in Weege’s studio.
Sam Gilliam, #21, 1975, handmade paper and fabric construction, 16 1/2 x 15 1/2 inches.
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