“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.
Tilt from The American Dream
serigraph, 1997, 16.63 x 13 in
You might say that Pop artist Robert Indiana (b. 1928) lived the American Dream. Throughout the artist’s early childhood in Indiana, his family lived in poverty. They moved 21 times before Indiana turned 17, and his mother worked as a waitress in greasy spoon diners to make ends meet. Flash forward to the late 1950’s, and Indiana was a 20-something living in New York City and cavorting with the likes of Andy Warhol and Wynn Chamberlain. His hard-edged oil compositions bearing bright colors, provocative phrases and culturally significant numbers had caught the eye of the contemporary art world. In 1965, Indiana designed a Christmas card for MoMA featuring scarlet, stacked letters that spelled out “LOVE.” It would become his most iconic image, landing on a USPS postage stamp in 1973.
A few years before he created the LOVE image, Indiana looked back on his path to success with the first painting in his American Dream series. The same composition appears in Indiana’s 1997 serigraph Tilt from The American Dream, which is new to the Zane Bennett Contemporary collection. In the image, highly personal symbolism mingles with universal markers of Americanism.
The circles and stars that appear throughout the piece riff on advertising aesthetics of the period. In the black and yellow circle at top left, the numbers reference highways he roamed as a young man (including Route 66). The phrases “TAKE ALL” and “THE AMERICAN DREAM” represent an industrious but viciously competitive national ethos. In the bottom left circle, the word “TILT” evokes the pinball machines that Indiana encountered in the diners where his mother worked, and later in dive bars that he frequented. When paired with the other words in the tableau, “TILT” throws the egalitarian premise of The American Dream into question. This was the first of nine images in the American Dream series, created between 1961 and 2001. Tilt from the American Dream represents of Indiana’s epic, career-spanning exploration of the promises and pitfalls of American idealism.
Click here to learn more about Indiana’s print.
“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.