The imagery and works included in the Sam Francis exhibition exude a spontaneity, openness, and bold presence that were as much a part of the artist as of his work. Francis allowed chance and accident to shape his images. His ability to understand and convey the meaning of these unconscious elements enables viewers to understand the artist, as well as his art.
“In a city saturated with pop art, this is a chance for modern-art collector to consider works for their home by an actual abstract-expressionist,” says Gallery Director R.L. Sparks, who notes that “most of us, of course, will never acquire a Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning.”
He adds, “But Francis is his own man. His career traversed more styles than Pollock attempted and with a color palette brighter than any of the other expressionists.”
The artist’s desire to explore his art led him to Paris in the early ’50s, and it was here that his professional career as an artist indeed began.
From early in his career, Francis realized commercial and critical success with his large, paint-splattered, colorful images.
Untitled, 1994 (SFP94-39, SFF.1714)
acrylic on canvas
16 x 24 inches
His paintings of the 1950s evolved through a series of stages, beginning with monochromatic abstractions, followed by more massive richly colored murals and “open” paintings that feature large areas of whiteness. After his 1953 painting “Big Red” was included in the 1956 exhibition “Twelve Artists” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Francis began a rapid rise to international prominence.
Included in the exhibition are archetypal works and images — mandalas, trellises, and spirals which dominated his work during a period in the ’70s when he immersed himself in the work of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung.
Francis’ works of the early 1970s have been referred to as Fresh Air pictures. Created by adding pools, drips, and splatters of color to wet bands of paint applied with a roller, these works re-asserted the artist’s interest in color.
Untitled (Blue Cross) 1984
acrylic on paper
78 x 42 inches
Bright Ring Drawing, 1964
watercolor and acrylic on paper, signed ‘Sam Francis’ March 1964 Tokyo’ verso
41 x 27 inches
During the course of his career, Sam Francis was commissioned to paint many important murals, including those in at the Louvre Museum in Paris, the San Francisco Museum of Modern and the Kunsthalle in Basel, Switzerland.
“There are several huge works on display, big bold works, two of which are taller than I am, and I’m 6’2,” says Sparks. “But my favorite paintings personally are the more organic works of the early 1960’s where the artist is creating works more akin to what you’d see adrift in a petri dish, under a microscope, than what the hands of man usually devise.”
Francis died in 1994, and his originals are currently listed online for up to $30,000.
Martin Lawrence Galleries is located in New York, New York.
For more on Sam Francis, visit samfrancis.com