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 James Francis Gill  (1934 - )

About: James Francis Gill
 

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Lived/Active: Oregon/California      Known for: mod-pop figure, portrait-nude painting, sculpture

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Ad Code: 3
James Francis Gill
from Auction House Records.
Untitled
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
In 1934 James Francis Gill was born in Tahoka, Texas and grew up in San Angelo where his mother, an interior decorator and entrepreneur, encouraged her son to have an artistic interest. When Gill was around 10 years old, his mother painted a wooden floor in the family home in the style of Jackson Pollock. In high school, Gill and some friends started a rodeo club to pursue their first dream of being cowboys.

1953-1956, Gill served in the United States Marines and after leaving the Marines, he earned his living as an architect/illustrator. This was a curious beginning for an artist about to explode onto the pop art scene. In the summer of 1962, Gill traveled to Los Angeles with a series of paintings under his arm titled Women in Cars. Upon his arrival in L.A., Gill walked into the Felix Landau Gallery (as renowned in L.A. as the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York). Landau agreed to represent Gill on the spot, something he had never done before. By November, 1962 Gill had achieved acclaim when his Marilyn Triptych (a 3-panel painting of Marilyn Monroe) was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art and featured in Life Magazine. Indeed, Gill's "Marilyn" study actually preceded Andy Warhol's more famous study of the tragic screen legend.

In 1965 Gill was guest artist to teach painting at the University of Idaho. His works of art appeared oppressive and dark in shade of color and mood in these years.  His main topics were social and political events on the day such as the Vietnam War. A serial of anti-war paintings featured civilians and military leaders. In The Machines (an antiwar-painting), the composition formally connects media reporting from the United States with combat conditions in Vietnam.  The playwright William Inge described the men in these paintings as “figures of high public reputation, momentarily caught in some nefarious act that will probably destroy their political or professional reputations.”

Throughout the fifties and sixties, a new school of artists emerged on the scene. They made “Pop Art” a household name. This group included Andy Warhol, Frank Stelle, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper John, Robert Rauschenberg and James Francis Gill. James Gill was one of the standouts among the pop artists. He experienced a rapid ascent in the art world, getting his work into major collections such as New York's MOMA.

In 1968 Gill received commissions to paint the cover for Time Magazine of Alexander Solzhenitsyn who had just been released from a Russian labor camp. Gill did the painting in form of a four-panel quadriptych. The figure moves from that of a faceless man with his prison number as a bar across his eyes to an image in the final panel of a smiling man who has found freedom. Two years later Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Gill said: “All people are political prisoners...they are prisoners of the system into which they are born.”

Major museums that added his work to their collections included:

 *   Museum of Modern Art
 *   The Whitney Museum of American Art
 *   The Art Institute of Chicago
 *   Berkeley Art Museum
 *   The Smithsonian American Art Museum
 *   National Portrait Gallery
 *   Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University
 *   San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts
 *   Santa Barbara University of Art Museum

In 1968, Gill was included in the São Paulo 9 exhibit. That single event, more than any other, established the hierarchy of the Pop Art icons. Among those included (in order of billing) were:

 *   Edward Hooper
 *   James Gill
 *   Robert Indiana
 *   Jasper Johns
 *   Roy Lichtenstein
 *   Robert Rauschenberg
 *   James Rosenquist
 *   Andy Warhol
 *   Tom Wesselmann

His work is often included in the realm of Pop Art but, unlike his contemporaries, Gill's art reflected qualities of a contemporary consciousness and a classical tradition as well.

In 1969 Gill lectured on his painting at the University of California in Irvine.  In 1970 Gill was asked to teach as a guest artist at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Now Gill was at the peak of career and popularity in the Pop Art world. Many contemporaries reputed him more profound and complex than Pop Art intended to express. “...Gill is a prominent artist of the Pop Art movement, though he was too painterly and he dealt with his subjects in a manner that was too emotionally loaded for him to be considered just a Pop artist...” Los Angeles Times Editor Henry J. Seldis in the November 8, 1965 edition.

In 1972 Gill went at the peak of his fame in a self-imposed exile in California. He wanted to improve his artistic form of expression without material trappings.

1979 back in Texas he advanced his art without appearing in public.

In 1987, Gill took a computer drafting course at the College of the Redwoods. “...I eventually started to use the computer...as a kind of drawing tool. I experimented more and more...”

In 2005 a retrospective exhibition was held in the Museum of Fine Art in his hometown San Angelo, Texas.  In 2008, after re-emerging from a 35 year hiatus, Gill's story caught the attention of Hollywood, which culminated in a feature length documentary about him, hosted by Forrest Sawyer.

In 2011 Gill was in a late creative phase. The paintings are an affiliation of realism and abstraction. He is one of the last of the original Pop Artists still alive today and is considered to be one of the founding fathers of this art culture in America.

Submitted by Jackie Heinl

Sources:
James Gill,  1969 exhibition catalogue: Felix Landau Gallery

Uncommonplaces: The Art of James Francis Gill
by Jim Edwards, William
Emboden and David McCarthy

Who's Who in American Art
, 1976

Wikipedia
"James Gill" 1969 exhibition catalogue: Felix Landau Gallery
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Gill_(artist)#cite_note-3

Unfamiliar Faces (Nate Hansen)

San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts 2005 Retrospective Exhibition( Bio)

Unfamiliar Faces (Nate Hansen)

San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts 2005 Retrospective Exhibition( Bio)


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