B. North Carolina, 1914
D. New York, NY, 2000
Thomas Sills (1914 -2000) was born and raised in Castalia, North Carolina. He began painting in 1952, inspired by his wife Jeanne Reynal’s work, and her collection of abstract art. He did not have formal training as an artist, but through Reynal he met a wide range of artists: from Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst, to Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko. Sills’s earliest paintings were experimental: he used a variety of tools to apply paint, along with a variety of materials on the surface. He also used an automatist approach. By the late 1950s, he began working with an idea of equivalence between figure and ground, so that each form is both the positive and the negative of the form next to it. He also frequently used a balance of two main colors in each painting. Often the compositions form radiating, optical sensations.
Sills was the subject of four solo exhibitions at Betty Parsons Gallery from 1955 to 1961. In 1962 he exhibited with Paul Kantor Gallery, Los Angeles; and had a two-person exhibition with Reynal at the New School for Social Research, New York. In the 1960s and early 70s, he showed with Bodley Gallery, New York. He was the subject of solo exhibitions at Creighton University, Omaha, NE; and the Art Association of Newport, RI. Sills was also included in several important historic exhibitions of African American artists in the 1960s and early 1970s. His work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, all New York; along with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.