“Painting is about the beauty of space and the power of containment,” said Sam Francis (1923-1994). The abstract expressionist master is best known for paintings that show multicolored abstract splatters between luminous fields of white. “Containment” isn’t the first word you might use to describe these exuberant artworks that are devoid of hard edges. However, much like Jackson Pollock, Francis was actually exercising precise control in the creation of his work. Though Francis’s bright pigments are focal points, he knew that negative space was his most important compositional tool. These new prints in the Zane Bennett Contemporary collection are dazzling examples of his signature aesthetic.
Image: Sam Francis.
Chinese Wall (CTP), 1969,
lithograph, 30.12 x 22.5 in.
Untitled (SF 236), 1978
lithograph, 38.25 x 28 in.
Untitled (SF 78), 1964
lithograph, 15.5 x 22.75 in.
Untitled (SF 319), 1964
lithograph, 15.5 x 22.75 in.
Untitled AP, 1982
aquatint and drypoint, 29.87 x 23.87 in.
III, from the Pasadena Box, Variant II, 1963,
lithograph, 15 x 11.25 in.
Click here to browse the complete Zane Bennett Contemporary Art collection.
“Ideas hang around images like shadows,” said Sam Francis (1923-1994). “The space at the center of these paintings is reserved for you.” The quote seems particularly apt when it comes to the abstract expressionist’s aquatint “The Five Continents in Wintertime.” Francis employs his idiosyncratic drips and splatters, but pulls back his typically vibrant palette to reflect the purple, blue and brown tones of bare branches set against winter skies. Between these cool winter “shadows,” a field of snowy white paper shows through.
Francis was born in San Mateo, California. He was initially influenced by the work of abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Clyfford Still. While living in Paris in the 1950’s, he became associated with Tachisme. Tachisme was a reaction to cubism and is characterized by spontaneous brushwork, drips and blobs of paint straight from the tube, and sometimes scribbling reminiscent of calligraphy. Francis spent his time in Paris executing entirely monochromatic works, but his mature pieces are generally large oil paintings with splashed or splattered areas of bright contrasting color. Areas of white canvas are often left to show through, and in later works, paint is sometimes confined to the edges of the canvas. Scroll down to view “The Five Continents in Wintertime” and other works by Sam Francis.
Image: Meibao D. Nee.
The Five Continents in Wintertime
aquatint, 23.75in x 48.75in
color lithograph, 30 x 20 in.
Untitled #5, from Pasadena Box
lithograph, 11 x 15 in.
Click here to browse the complete Zane Bennett Contemporary collection.
“A really good picture looks as if it has happened at once,” said Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011). “It’s an immediate image.” The West Coast artist developed an entire painting technique around this idea. By thinning her oils with turpentine or water and splashing them across canvases, she created abstract images that possessed the immediacy she was after. Famed art critic Clement Greenberg heralded her “soak-stain” compositions as the next step in abstract expressionism’s evolution, after Jackson Pollock’s breakthrough drip paintings rocked the world.
“When Greenberg brought the abstract painters Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis to Frankenthaler’s studio in 1953, they seized upon both her technique and the broad, flat expanses of color she created,” writes Jon Mann for Artsy. “Greenberg was quick to… highlight a second impulse and aesthetic in Abstract Expressionism—Color Field Painting—of which Frankenthaler would be a leading exponent for over a decade.” Frankenthaler’s lithograph Reflections X exemplifies the flowing, lyrical nature of her best paintings. It’s from her Reflections series, 12 lithographs that she made with Tyler Graphics in 1995. Scroll down to see the new piece, and two other prints from the Zane Bennett Contemporary collection.
14.75 x 11.75 in.
30 x 38 in
16.75 x 21 in
Click here to learn more about artwork by Helen Frankenthaler in the Zane Bennett Contemporary Collection.