The Evolution of Sam Francis’s Painting Through Five Works
Untitled (SF63-006), 1963

Untitled (SF63-006), 1963

Looking at Francis’s works from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, one can see its development over time. In Untitled (SF63-006) (1963), for example, Francis uses an unconventional compositional method, employing large swathes of color at the edges, balanced by energetic drips and splashes that cover the entire picture plane. Similar to and , Francis uses color, brush marks, and splatter to convey emotion. Later, his images became more tight and uniform, as in the Untitled (SFM78-171; SFM78-050) (EXP-SF-11-#4-78) (1978). Here, Francis has incorporated a pattern into his work, in this case created with a brush, though he often applied pigment with a roller.
Untitled (SFM78-171; SFM78-050) (EXP-SF-11-#4-78), 1978

Untitled (SFM78-171; SFM78-050) (EXP-SF-11-#4-78), 1978

Generated (SF-275) (L-246), (1981)

Generated (SF-275) (L-246), (1981)

This square format continues in Generated (SF-275) (L-246) (1981), a diptych of two nearly-square forms made of quick and loose marks and drips, all in a monochromatic yellow ink. In these pieces, Francis used geometric forms and patterns, but broke free of them through his liberal use of color. In Untitled (SFM81-144) (EXP-SF-44-#4) (1981), from that same year, the rectangular elements become sublimated into background forms, covered over by bright splashes, using a combination of woodblock printing, oil paint, dry pigments, and ink. By later on in the ’80s, the form is almost completely diffused into overlapping daubs of acrylic paint, as is the case in Star (SFP87-74) (SFF.1396) (1987).
Untitled (SFM81-144) (EXP-SF-44-#4), 1981

Untitled (SFM81-144) (EXP-SF-44-#4), 1981

Star (SFP87-74) (SFF.1396), 1987

Star (SFP87-74) (SFF.1396), 1987

While these five works only represent a small portion of Francis’s prolific output and experimentation, they exemplify his developments in abstraction and his individual use of color, form, and the artist’s brush.

—Stephen Dillon