Light and space have always been the heart of the work of Sam Francis. This
is not a new and unique element in the world of art, the constant game between
light and space are important ingredients in the work of most modern art painters.
What is unique in the work of Sam Francis is the way he translated these two
constant factors into, not only one-dimensional work, but even two- and three-
dimensional works of art.
Francis was never able to settle down in one home, one country, or settling
for one constant discipline in his artwork.. He did not like to repeat himself.
Francis was always renewing and reinventing himself in his work, by absorbing
different cultures and politics, and by mastering new art techniques. In the
year 1956 - by that time Francis had already achieved international acclaim
as an artist - he made a large mural for the staircase of the Basel Kunsthalle
in Switserland. Between 1956 and 1958 Francis created a monumental triptych,
each panel of which was over twelve feet high and nearly twenty feet long. This
same triptych was featured in the rotunda of the Fridericianum at Documenta
III in Kassel. Sam Francis would make more enormous monumental works like the
Tokyo Mural in 1957 and the Chase Manhattan Mural in 1959 in New York. These
large murals exceeded its one-dimensionality by its impressive size and interaction
between the radiant colors and sometimes sculpted application of paint on the
Throughout his life Francis befriended people he admired or simply felt at ease
with. He travelled around the world. During these travels he was always accompanied
by friends or assistants. Among the people Francis befriended and professionally
admired were Giacometti, Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely, all three of
them great artists, who mastered the art of sculpture. Possibly these artists
influenced him or inspired him to make three-dimensional work himself.
During the early 1960's Francis had bought a house on the edge of the Pacific
ocean in California, a bungalow built at the turn of the century in Santa Monica
canyon. He kept his studio's in Bern, Paris, Tokyo and New York. He travelled
back and forth, mainly between Los Angeles and Japan at this time. It is during
these stays in Japan that Francis created his first series of sculptures. He
studied ceramic techniques and began with a wall piece in 1964, these sculptures
were a group of four blue and white ceramic wall pieces he made in Kyoto. Francis
had the chance now to work outdoors, something he had never been able to do
in Europe. In 1965 he made four freestanding ceramic sculptures without a base
consisting of two separate pieces, a cylinder and a cone, about 120 cm high.
These sculptures had glaze brushed on them to catch the reflections of light.
Many of Francis's 'sculpture drawings' where made here in Japan, notations of
simple classical forms. These notations are rings and cones resting on squares
and rectangular forms, simply floating on the paper. All sculpture drawings
express a certain amount of dynamics, not because of the color used making these
drawings, but because of the way how Francis put the shapes on the white space,
the forms all seem to be going somewhere. In 1966 a series of works titled drawings
for sculptures where exhibited in Tokyo at the Minami Gallery. In 1967 the San
Francisco Museum of Art exhibited eleven of these drawings.
The three-dimensional art works Francis started making in Japan would stay with
him longer than the sixties. From time to time Francis made sculpture drawings.
It would not be until 1979 that Francis actually made another cast. He has first
made a two-dimensional work of art, the drawing, which he then converted into
a three-dimensional work; the sculpture. The geometric forms of the sculpture
almost seem like dynamic figures connected to each other. The open spaces create
a great energy which is emphasized by the material of the work, the chromed
steel reflecting the light.
This great energy is given to us by one of the most dynamic artists of the past
century, a man who excelled in every dimension of the arts, Sam Francis.