Light Fan

  • Sam Gilliam, Light Fan, 1966, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Woodward Foundation, 1977.48.2

Exhibition Label
Light Fan has the feel of an image seen from space – a sunrise observed from an orbiting capsule through a window struck by a ray of light or the blue and green depths of an ocean giving way to sunwarmed shallows. The effect is diaphanous; color has bled in irregular pools as the tidal pull of capillary action moved wet pigment around a field of color on a finely woven fabric. Edges freely shift in a way that is both accidental and controlled.

African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012
Luce Center Label

Sam Gilliam was one of the youngest members of the Washington Color School during the 1960s and '70s. In Light Fan he poured vibrant washes of yellow, green, and blue paint over raw canvas to emphasize color instead of form, and appears to have folded the painting as it was drying to create the diagonal line that runs from corner to corner. The plain canvas at the edge of the image captures the movement of the paint as it spread over and soaked into the unprimed fabric.

Luce Object Quote
"I think being creative means you are both curious and serious about your relationship to your work. It means you are eager to develop the next step even if it has to be invented." The artist, quoted in Sam Gilliam: Of Fireflies and Ferris Wheels: Monastery Parallel, Art Museum Kloster Unser Lieben Frauen, 1996-97
Light Fan
Not on view
36 1/4 x 36 in. (92.1 x 91.4 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the Woodward Foundation

Mediums Description
acrylic on canvas
  • Abstract
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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