Sam Francis: Rapid, Fluid, Indivisible Vision

Sam Francis, Composition: Yellow and Red, watercolor and gouache on paper, ca. 1956 © 2015 Sam Francis Foundation, California / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Sam Francis, Composition: Yellow and Red, watercolor and gouache on paper, ca. 1956 © 2015 Sam Francis Foundation, California / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

HappeningsCLT got the inside scoop on the newest feature exhibition at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Sam Francis: Rapid, Fluid, Indivisible Vision. It’s the first show organized and executed by the museum’s new curator, Jennifer Edwards, whose arrival to Charlote fills the empty space in our hearts where a modern art curator should have always been. We are excited to witness this new surge of energy in our very special and unique Modern Art museum.

We gathered all the info about the show in the brief below, and we hope it will encourage you to go visit it soon.

Sam Francis (1923-1994) is best known for creating lyrical compositions replete with gestural  remnants and bright, bold colors. He is typically tied to the 2nd generation of Abstract Expressionists though his work is equally representative of the color field school, French Impressionism, and Asian art.

About the Exhibition:

  • This exhibition was going to be small at first, but generous cooperation and (gratis) loans from the Sam Francis Foundation allowed for the giant fourth floor show to fully flesh itself out. Additional loans came from Davidson College Art Galleries, the Bank of America Collection, NCMA, the Mint Museum, and private collectors.
  • Sam Francis left school to train as a fighter pilot in WWII. A training accident revealed a latent case of spinal tuberculosis, which forced him to lay in a hospital bed for four years. He began painting and drawing as a means to bring himself back to life.
  • The first two (large rooms) are half painted with a silvery gray. This is a nod to Francis’ days spent watching morning fog from his hospital bed in northern California, and later the silver skies of Paris.
  • The 1¢ Life Portfolio is given major attention and it is a sight to see. Francis was instrumental in coordinating the artist participation in this monumental effort, a 1964 poetry art book with words by Walasse Ting and lithographs by almost every important western artist of the day. Francis was remarkable in his ability to join seemingly opposing art world egos, and was quite the sociable collaborator.
  • Francis was into Jungian philosophy and did a series of semi-haunting, semi-fascinating self-portraits in lithographic form. A big theme through the whole show is the way Americans worked with old printmaking techniques like lithography and turned them into something better that worked for them.


  • All of the Sam Francis works on view are enthusiastic expressions of color and movement. They are a visual manifestation of a life lived quite fully, with a career of balance between collaboration and introspection.

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