James Francis Gill was born in Tahoka, Texas in 1934. From 1960-1961 he studied at University of Texas, Austin on a painting scholarship, where he completed his formal education. He left Texas in 1962, and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his artistic career. The support he received from his first art dealer, Felix Landau, was pivotal to Gill’s early entrance into important private and public collections.
Throughout the fifties and sixties, a new school of artists emerged on the scene, and made “Pop Art” a household name. Among them was James Gill, who routinely exhibited alongside acclaimed artists such as Edward Hopper, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Gill experienced a rapid ascent in the art world and major museums began to take notice. The New York’s Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum and the Smithsonian Institute added his works to their collections.
In 1965, Gill taught at the University of Idaho, and in 1969 at the University of California, Irvine. The following year, he was offered a visiting professorship at the University of Oregon.
In 1967, Gill was featured in the “Environment USA: 1957-67” exhibit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, alongside acclaimed artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg and Edward Hopper. This exhibition led to Gill’s breakthrough in the international art world.
Gill was at the peak of his career, and very popular in the Pop Art scene, but many contemporaries saw a profound and complex meaning in his works, expressing more than Pop Art originally intended.
In 1972, Gill went surprisingly into a self-imposed exile. Not wishing to further succumb to the “me” generation, Gill joined a small group of artists, poets and writers to form an artist’s colony on the California/Oregon border. He continued to work and expand his artistic vision, taking the Pop Art practice of appropriating commercial photo-derived imagery as source material and applying the latest in technology to develop his current unique process. By running a raw canvas through an ink-jet printer he re-creates an image that he then manipulates with a clear gel medium, applying it as one would paint with regular pigment, to draw the inks up into the gel, giving the same effect as colored acrylics – only with colors dramatically more vibrant than pre-colored medium. Gill can then paint or glaze over the artwork until it thoroughly represents his artistic vision.
With iconic Pop Art depictions, as well as bold collaged abstract imagery, it was widely conceded among his contemporaries that Gill’s art reflected both qualities of a contemporary consciousness and a classical tradition.
Gill’s artwork can be found in the following collections; Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Stanford University Center for Visual Arts & The Art Institute of Chicago, to name a few.