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Exhibition at Bechtler Museum of Modern Art features works by Abstract Expressionist Sam Francis
Sam Francis, Hurrah for the Red, White and Blue, lithograph on paper, 1961 © 2015 Sam Francis Foundation, California / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

CHARLOTTE, NC.- Considered one of the premier colorists of the 20th century, American artist Sam Francis (1923 - 1994) is best known for dramatic, lushly painted works comprised of vivid pools of color, thinly applied. Drips, gestures, and splatters of paint in his work have led to his identification as a second-generation Abstract Expressionist, but Francis has also been compared to Color Field artists on the basis of large, fluid sections of paint that seem to extend beyond the confines of the pictorial surface.

Sam Francis: Rapid Fluid Indivisible Vision brings together a diverse selection of works in oil, acrylic, watercolor, aquatint and lithograph that trace the artist’s career from the 1940s to the 1980s. In addition to nine works from the Bechtler Collection, the exhibition comprises works by Sam Francis on loan from the Sam Francis Foundation, Bank of America, North Carolina Museum of Art, Mint Museum, Davidson College and private collections. The exhibition runs September 18, 2015 through March 7, 2016.

Francis’s lyrical hand, sense of movement and capturing of light and color as well as the sheer energy of his gestural images embrace and define a beauty that he found inherent in the exploration of one’s imagination. Though his painterly, expressionistic world appears uncalculated in its freeform presentation, Francis was guided by his intelligence, masterly control of the brush and gut-felt intuition in capturing the beauty of human emotion.

“Although Sam Francis remains an important and influential artist throughout Western Europe and Eastern Asia, his work is not often on view in museums in the United States and is rarely studied in art history classes,” said Bechtler Museum of Modern Art curator Jennifer Edwards, who designed the Sam Francis exhibition. “Francis incorporated psychology, spirituality, philosophy and literature into his visual art practice and was engaged in scientific and technological developments. I think these complex aspects of the artist will appeal Charlotte’s diverse audiences.”

Central threads running throughout the show are inspiration, mentorship and collaboration, as seen in the 1¢ Life portfolio on view in the exhibition. Francis co-edited the portfolio in 1964 with poet/painter Walasse Ting. Displaying a range of approaches that dominated the art world in the early 1960s, the vibrant lithographs in 1¢ Life showcase Francis and other second-generation Abstract Expressionists. The publication includes works by Joan Mitchell, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Karel Appel, Andy Warhol, Jean-Paul Riopelle and others.

The use of color lithography in 1¢ Life was a bold choice during a time when most American artists associated the medium with commercial printing. Ting and Francis challenged American artists to reconsider the possibilities of lithography and collaborated with European printmakers to produce it. Featured are limited edition color lithographs which incorporate American Pop art and European Expressionism. Ting's poetry flows throughout the pages uniting the art.

In conjunction with artwork of Sam Francis and the 1¢ Life portfolio, works from the Bechtler Collection of artists who were working near Francis in time, spirit, or place are on view to explicate the extent that Francis embodied and influenced modern art.

Works by Sam Francis are featured in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MoMA, National Gallery of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Tate Gallery, Walker Art Center and Kunstmuseum Basel.

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