The African-American abstract painter Sam Gilliam, known for his colorful canvases left free from the frames on which they are usually attached, died Saturday, June 25 at the age of 88, announced Monday two galleries having collaborated with him. He died in his Washington home of kidney failure, according to the New York Times.

“Sam Gilliam was one of the giants of modernism,” said Arne Glimcher, the founder of Pace Gallery, as quoted in the statement. “Sam embodied a vital spirit of freedom, achieved with courage, ferocity, sensitivity and poetry,” added David Kordansky, of the gallery of the same name.

It was in the late 1960s that Sam Gilliam, who had already painted his colorful shapes on folded canvases before stretching them on their stretchers, produced some of his most iconic works, the “drapes”, completely ridding his canvases from their wooden supports to let them fall freely from the ceiling or the walls.

“These groundbreaking works (…) changed the history of art,” write the gallerists. “Gilliam transformed the medium of painting and its relationship to the spatial and architectural context in which it is viewed. »

“1968 was a year of revelation and determination”, explained the artist, quoted by the press release. Three of these paintings are currently on display at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, in Paris, as part of the exhibition “La Couleur en fugue”, until August 29, 2022.