“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.
Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) is having a moment—though you could argue that the postmodern provocateur has been en mode since the midcentury. In any case, the Museum of Modern Art’s blockbuster survey show Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends recently closed in New York, and SFMOMA’s manifestation of the exhibition opens in late November. The new show is titled Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules, a reference to the artist’s legendary erasure of a Willem De Kooning drawing in the name of art. It was a seminal moment in his early career, but hardly characteristic of the work he would produce in the following decades.
Rauschenberg was a master of addition rather than subtraction, fearlessly layering a vast arsenal of bizarre materials to create sculptural paintings, painted sculptures and three-dimensional drawings that he referred to as “Combines.” Cock Sure, a mixed-media print that he produced with Pace in the 1990’s, represents a late chapter of his persistent experimentation. “Cock Sure is an extension of his curiosity, applying paint directly onto the glass surface, increasing the depth of the work so that it became three-dimensional,” wrote Art Daily. “The work is characteristically by Rauschenberg as seen through the inclusion of everyday images: an open sign, chickens, a windmill, and a dog resting by a brick wall.” Scroll down to view more works by Rauschenberg in the Zane Bennett Contemporary collection.
Robert Rauschenberg Arcanum VIII
22.5 x 15.5 in
Robert Rauschenberg Arcanum V
color silkscreen with hand-coloring and collage on paper
22.5 x 15.5 in
Despite being credited with a Pop sensibility, Ed Ruscha (b. 1937) defies categorization with his diverse output of photographic books and tongue-in-cheek photo-collages, paintings, and drawings. Ruscha’s work is inspired by the ironies and idiosyncrasies of life in Los Angeles, which he often conveys by placing glib words and colloquial phrases atop photographic images or fields of color. Known for painting and drawing with unusual materials such as gunpowder, blood, and Pepto Bismol, Ruscha draws attention to the deterioration of language and pervasive clichés in pop culture.
Ruscha’s lithographRelos Arenais new to the Zane Bennett Contemporary collection. The artist’s bold style and idiosyncratic splatter effects are on dynamic display in the piece, but it also possesses an elegance and subtlety that echoes its subject matter. Scroll down to view detail images of this work, and click here to inquire now.
“My pictures are full of climates, abstract climates. They’re not nature per se, but a feeling,” said Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011). A second-generation Abstract Expressionist painter, Frankenthaler became active in the New York School of the 1950s, initially influenced by artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Arshile Gorky. She gained prominence with her invention of the color-stain technique—applying thin washes of paint to unprimed canvas—in her iconic Mountains and Sea (1952).
Frankenthaler’s works balance abstraction with elements of landscape and figuration, as seen in her 1987 lithograph Yellow Jack. The work transports the viewer to a calm seashore—or perhaps a cool desert—after dusk, with the rising moon’s bright yellow light bleeding from the composition’s edges. “This complicated relationship to landscape presents a constant tension in her art,” notes the Clark Art Institute in the exhibition materials for their current show, As In Nature: Helen Frankenthaler Paintings. “[Her works] are primarily abstract, yet reveal recognizable elements from the landscape that function, paradoxically, to reinforce their abstraction: as in nature, but not as in nature.”
Image: Helen Frankenthaler, Yellow Jack, 1987, lithograph, 30 x 36 in.