SAN MARINO, CA.- Abstract expressionist Sam Francis (19231994) is famous for his large, bright oil paintings; and connoisseurs may be familiar with his active, colorful printsbut a work in three dimensions? Rare, indeedand now a special treat that Huntington visitors can enjoy. On January 12, an untitled 6-foot, 3-inch, 1500-pound abstract sculpture made of corten steel was installed on The Huntingtons grounds near the north-facing entrance to the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. A long-term loan from the Sam Francis Foundation, the figure, which seems inspired by Japanese calligraphy, was fabricated in 2003, based on a design Francis had only developed into small scale models before his death. The sculpture installed at The Huntington is one of only six that have been produced, and the only one currently in the U.S.
This muscular and dynamic work by Sam Francis makes a powerful statement juxtaposed with Frederick Fishers sleek Erburu Gallery, commented Jessica Todd Smith, Virginia Steele Scott Chief Curator of American Art. The vigorous form of the sculpture seems to bring the artists painterly gesture to life. Its velvety patina and intriguing shape almost beckon visitors to enter the building and see more art inside.
Francis spent much time in Japan, and was likely inspired by Asian forms when he created a series of drawings that were the basis for the sculpture.
Debra Burchett-Lere, director of the Sam Francis Foundation explains, Sam was in Japan in 1964 and started a series of ceramic pieces, his first sculpture work. Later, he made a series of drawings and then in 1970s some maquettes in plaster like the sculpture that is now at The Huntington.
She added, We love where the Huntington is placing the sculpture. It has the spirit of expanding an artistic environment into the garden. Sam was always very supportive of museums and of the natural environment, so this is certainly a fitting gesture.
Free Floating Clouds (1980) a monumental painting of overlapping layers of shimmering colors by Francis, was a gift to The Huntington from the Sam Francis Foundation last year and hangs among other examples of American art form the colonial period to the mid-20th century inside the galleries.