Sam Francis: Freedom of color

2 February - 31 May 2013

Galleria d'Arte Maggiore g.a.m. opens the new year with the work of Sam Francis, among the most sought after artists in the area of American Abstract Expressionism. The monographic exhibition traces the artist's career thanks to a group of works highlighting at first the influence of other American artists - including Jackson Pollock and Clyfford Still - and then presenting the development of his own personal style. After moving to Paris in 1950 and several trips to Japan, Sam Francis learns a different use of space and develops a special sensitivity to color values. The ambition of the artist is to renew the art of his time starting from the color itself that stains, splashes and drips on the canvas with an entirely new vitality and energy.

Born in California in 1923, the real beginning of Sam Francis' career can be placed in Paris in the Fifties. The light colors of Monet and Matisse are the sparks that make his style develop from his early monochromatic works to paintings with striking colors dominated by abstract, airy forms which are full of light. He himself admits: "color is the true substance, the starting point that is neither design nor lines". While color is free to move on the surface of the paintings, biomorphic shapes and brilliant contrasts of tones are originated. Colors stand out in serial but never symmetrical games in contrast with the spaces deliberately left white on the canvas. The use of the color by Sam Francis is spontaneous, impulsive and independent from the support, as proved by the murals he realizes in Tokyo, Basel, Berlin, New York, San Francisco and by his interest in everyday materials. As he points out: "Paper is much more beautiful than canvas. It's deeper. I like the way that the paint slips into the fibres". This preference leads Sam Francis to make a significant group of watercolors and lithographs reaching one of the highest peak in this technique in the Sixties. After opening a print shop and countless tests in the laboratory he founded, Sam Francis becomes such a skillful master in the lithography technique to be able to create the same spontaneity of shapes and colors achieved in the paintings. And if in the Sixties Los Angeles becomes the base he returns to after all his travels, he then moves to Tokyo in Japan between 1973 and 1974 where his works are influenced by mysticism and Eastern philosophy. The impact on his paintings is concrete and his style becomes increasingly rich in contrasts between white spaces and colors. In the rest of the decade greater minimalism and stronger abstraction can be seen in his works and in the Eighties Sam Francis turns towards more structured forms, with "hard" colors and more disciplined structures.