Marilyn Triptych I & II
Gill‘s first exhibition in New York resulted in the purchase of the „Marilyn Triptych“ (1962) by the donor couple John and Dominique De Ménil, who gave the work to MoMA, which included it in its permanent collection.
Art historian David McCarthy wrote in his book “Movements in Modern Art : Pop Art“ (2000): "In Los Angeles, James Gill also found media images of Monroe, particularly those taken shortly before her death in LIFE magazine." In the Marilyn Monroe Triptych, Gill used an image format - the triptych - usually reserved for Christian paintings. In this sense, he paralleled Warhol‘s use of religious symbolism and image format.
However, Gill focused on the tension between her body sitting in the foreground and the selective representation in the background to comment on her vulnerability. Her familiar body, so often used in film and photography, is shown nude here not to serve erotic allure, but to emphatically underscore her vulnerability and victimization."
Screenwriter George Axelrod (including "Bus Stop" and "The Seven Year Itch" with Marilyn Monroe) sees Gill‘s "Marilyn Triptych" printed in "LIFE Magazine" in 1962. When Axelrod wants to buy it, Gill tells him that it is already in the collection of the MoMA, but that he could paint him another similar work. Gill then paints "Marilyn Triptych II" (1963) for him.
In 1967, George Axelrod lends his „Marilyn Triptych II“ to the renowned Sidney Janis Gallery in New York City for the exhibition "Homage to Marilyn Monroe". IWhen Axelrod dies in 2003, the triptych is sold from his estate to a private collector. Axelrod‘s play "The Seven Year Itch" was made to a movie in 1955. The film shows Marilyn Monroe in her most famous scene in a white halter dress standing over a subway grate, her dress lifted by the draft.
WOMEN I N CARS
In the early and mid-1960s, Gill creates a series of special motifs of women and men getting out of automobiles. In 1962, he visits the Felix Landau Gallery in Los Angeles and brings three works of his "Women i n Cars" with him. Felix Landau is so impressed, that he immediately takes Gill on as an artist. MoMA includes a canvas work and a paper work of the „Women in Cars“ in its collection. The Whitney Museum of American Art also acquires his bronze „Women in Brown Car #1“. 2022 hosts numerous galler y and museum exhibitions. On display are his new unique works and serigraphs of the „Women in Cars“.
Gill‘s „Political Prisoner“ describes the social upheavals of our time, the subject of censorship and expression of opinion and not least a world in which one lives with the constant threat of terrorism. Gill already recognized this in the 1960s when he created the port rait of the „Political Prisoner“ and pointed out this dangerous development in a painterly way. According to Gill, every child is a prisoner of the system, even before it is born. It is born into a world in which it can fundamentally do nothing to change. Gill has taken up this theme again and again in the last 60 years of his work.
SUBURBAN PAINTINGS & NUDES
In the 1960s, he created several nudes in oil, influenced by his past in architecture. In each case Gill shows ladies sitting on a piece of furniture. In the background is a window with a view of an American suburban housing development common at the time.
Art historian David McCarthy describes one of these works in his article „James Gill‘s Nude on a Red Sofa“, which he wrote for the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1997, as follows, among other things: „Where Eugène Delacroix, Henri Matisse and other modern painters often placed their nudes amid the overt Orientalist t rappings of hookahs, shiny wedges, richly patterned fabrics and saturated colors, Gill depicts ranch houses and a biomorphic sofa, embedding this interior in a specifically post war milieu [...].
The picture window, that frames the nude and the sofa, represents a barrier that demarcates two very different, interconnected worlds. From the outside, one sees nothing but bright blue skies, presumably well-manicured lawns and completely anonymous, drab gray houses - in short, a landscape that could be almost anywhere [...] Gill, who worked as an architect in the 1950s, was well acquainted with the building boom and the philosophy of simple living associated with such houses.
By placing a nude in a ranch house, Gill documented a particular moment - the casual, hedonistic lifest yle that California associated in the 1950s and 1960s. What happened in the privacy of one‘s own home was part of the allure of moving to the suburbs, where extra space served as a buffer bet ween oneself and one‘s nosy neighbors. Sex was obviously part of the at t raction of greater privacy. Such homes were firmly entrenched in the „baby boom“, because they provided affordable housing for members of Gill‘s generation who wanted to raise their families outside the city.“