Sirius XM produced this interview between artist Sam Gilliam and Jonathan Binstock, the director of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery and a Gilliam scholar.
On the occasion of Gilliam’s return to the Venice Biennale 45 years after he represented the United States, this far-ranging conversation covers the artist’s entire career. Born in Louisville, Kentucky where Cassius Clay, Sr. (Muhammed Ali’s father) was a prominent painter, Gilliam encountered a European refugee Ulfert Wilke at the Louisville and became his studio assistant.
He also eventually encountered the Gutai artists in Japan, Bob Thompson and moved eventually to Washington, DC where Kenneth Noland was at the center of the Color Field movement and the city was “a town of connection.”
Throughout this conversation Gilliam talks of the lifelong struggle to make art and make a life as an artist. His career followed no clear trajectory but has been punctuated by encounters with an endless cast of 20th Century artistic influences culminating in his most recent turn in the center stage.