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Glisten

Powerful Essays
I decided to choose my subject by walking around the museum and seeing which one “called” to me. I chose Glisten (1972) by Sam Gilliam because the bright colors grabbed me as soon as I saw it and a feeling of happiness washed over me. Sam Gilliam (b. 1933) is a very well known African-American painter, innovative for his use of three-dimensional canvases (University of Kentucky), who is a part of the American Abstract Artists group, as well as many other movements, such as the Washington Color Field movement (Malyon). Glisten is a 27 x 73 15/16 x 3” acrylic on canvas 3-dimensional artwork (University of Kentucky).

The lines in the painting seem painterly, meaning I couldn’t find any distinct borders to them. It seems most apparent in the yellow line on the middle right side of the painting and the two blues lines near the top left corner. I believe he used this form because it is fairly common in Abstract Expressionism (Dempsey) to use line this way. I feel he is also trying to convey a mood by using this form of line because it adds a certain softness to the atmosphere surrounding it.

I can identify mostly organic shapes in the work and don’t seem to find any geometric shapes. The drops of paint in the bottom left corner and at the top have no visible shape to them, neither do any of the stains. I believe the artist was more about the flat shapes specifically on the canvas, because the canvas itself appeals to the three-dimensional mass. I see a strong figure-ground relationship between the paint splatters and the color stained background. I think the artist did this for a certain effect on the painting.

The color used in this work is the most effective element. The artist uses a mix of primary and secondary colors, but no vis...

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...he paint splatters, however, seem to intentionally unbalance the rest of the canvas with its concentration at the top. This allows the eye not to focus on just one spot.

The artist puts a lot of emphasis on color in the painting, and on space and texture of the canvas itself. He does this to bring the viewer into his world and express the emotion he is putting into words with paint. The painting is non-representational and is a part of the Abstract Expressionism movement. The artist particularly involved in the American Abstract Artists group. The concept of Abstract Expressionism was very popular at the time, and this artist was influenced by other Abstract Expressionist artists, such as Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler (University of Kentucky). This painting in particular says a lot about the innovative techniques Gilliam used and why is he world renowned.
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