Friday, July 20, 2012

Blue Balls V by Sam Francis Enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Blue Balls V by Sam Francis Enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 Sam Francis, Blue Balls V, 1962, 72 x 52 inches, oil on canvas
Collection: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Sam Francis Foundation
Los Angeles, July 20, 2012:  The Sam Francis Foundation is pleased to announce that it has donated Blue Balls V, a1962 oil on canvas, to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The painting is the first Sam Francis oil to join the Met’s collection. The painting joins two other works by Francis -- 1957 watercolor, Structure II, and an untitled monotype from 1977 -- already in the Metropolitan’s collection.

The 72 x 52 inch painting is from a series that Francis executed between 1960 and 1963 while convalescing after a bout of renal tuberculosis. During his extended hospitalization Francis endured kidney problems and swelling in one of his testicles, to which the title “Blue Balls” makes a sardonic reference. Painted on a pure white ground in sweeping strokes of blue – a favored color of the artist – Blue Balls V is both a biomorphic abstraction that suggests cellular presences, and a confident demonstration of the artist’s bravura brushwork.

Blue Balls V is one of 16 known oil on canvas works from the “Blue Balls” series.  “Blue Balls VIII” is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. 

Sam Francis in his Santa Monica Studio in 1965 with Blue Balls V

In 1991, when New York’s Gagosian Gallery held a show of Francis’ “Blue Balls” paintings, Roberta Smith of the New York Times characterized the works in the exhibition as “elegantly explosive.” Commenting on the Blue Balls series as a whole, Smith had strong praise to offer:  “They show a young artist at the height of his powers, mark a turning point in American painting with unusual complexity, and in both ways may unsettle prevailing opinion about their creator's achievement. “

Art historian William Agee, in his essay for the Sam Francis Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings, 1946 – 1994, notes that "...these paintings (the “Blue Balls” series) participate in the heightened openness and clarity of the art of the 1960s; a development, it should be remembered, that Francis himself had helped to define and effect."

Marla Prather, the Met’s Curator for Modern and Contemporary Art, feels that Blue Balls V fills a void in the Museum’s collection:  “Given the Metropolitan’s great strength in American Abstract Expressionist and Color Field painting it is surprising that it was not until 2011 that the Museum acquired its first painting by Sam Francis. We are pleased to represent the artist with a strikingly vibrant work from the Blue Ball series. The restrained composition of Blue Balls V has a remarkably contemporary presence and makes an ideal transition from the Museum’s collection of gestural painting from the 1950s to hard-edge painting of 1960s.“

Debra Burchett-Lere, Acting President and Director of the Sam Francis Foundation is pleased to be working on behalf of the board of directors in realizing a gifting program, as outlined by Francis Foundation Board members, Nancy Mozur and Donna Stein. “Working with Marla Prather and the staff at the Metropolitan on this donation has been such a positive experience,” states Burchett-Lere. “We are honored with the Metropolitan’s enthusiastic acquisition of the Sam Francis as it joins a good home with the other prominent postwar holdings in the museum’s collection.”

High resolution images of Blue Balls V are available for Press use on request.

About the Sam Francis Foundation:
The mission of The Sam Francis Foundation is to research, document, protect and perpetuate the creative legacy of the artist Sam Francis (1923–1994).

The goal of the foundation is to promote awareness of and knowledge about the art of Sam Francis to the public through education and information. Ongoing projects include donations of Sam Francis prints, works on paper, canvas paintings, and accompanying educational materials such as films, catalogues, and posters to charitable institutions across the United States. Institutions are selected on the basis of their scholarly approach to exhibitions and for their commitment to publications that provide regular public access to artists’ works.

For more information, please contact:
John Seed, Media Relations Consultant:
Communications Office, The Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné Reviewed by the Art Libraries Society of North America

Comments from a review of Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings, 1946–1994, posted by the Art Libraries Society of North America.

Presented as a hybrid, innovative catalogue raisonné, this is an electronic publication accompanied by a book with additional material. Its digital nature offers large storage capacity and browsability via links, but the choice of format (DVD) is questionable. In addition to preservation issues (disk and software obsolescence), it lacks some of the advantages of online catalogue raisonnés (a growing publishing model, with around thirty currently completed or in progress), particularly accessibility and the ability to change, although the latter has been addressed by the Foundation by promising access to online updates. The quality of the digital images (JPEG) is adequate for most research purposes, but the lack of high resolution (another growing trend in digital art publishing), and color issues, common to all digital imaging (color calibration, light conditions, etc.), are also a consideration. Technical information for images and software is minimal.

These production issues, however, do not detract from the achievement and value of the scholarly content of this catalogue raisonné, which includes a vast amount of new material. It is now the standard reference source on Francis and, as such, a recommended acquisition for academic and specialist libraries supporting research in modern and contemporary art or American art.

- Gustavo Grandal Montero, Academic Support Librarian, Chelsea College of Art & Design Library, University of the Arts London

To download a pdf of the complete review, click here. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

What Appraisers and Collectors Should Know

Debra Burchett-Lere, Acting President and Director of The Sam Francis Foundation will be one of the panelists participating in "Authentication and the Art Market: What Appraisers and Collectors Should Know." The event, which is sponsored by the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Society of Appraisers, will take place on July 31, 2012, from 10AM to Noon at the Pasadena Museum of History at 470 West Walnut Street in Pasadena.

Topics to be discussed will  include:

• The effects on the market for works in relation to traditional catalogues raisonnés

• Keeping catalogue raisonnés current and authoritative

• The function of artists’ foundations in light of authentication issues and recent developments, such  as the disbanding of the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board

• Timely legal issues pertaining to authentication questions with several artists’ foundations

• The influence of these issues on the art market.

A question and answer session will follow the panel.

To register or for more information click here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sam Francis Paintings Seen Through a Microscope

Have you ever wondered how the drips, splatters and blobs of paint on a Sam Francis painting would look highly magnified? Here is your chance...

"Untitled," 1981, 60 x 55 inches
Collection Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede, Netherlands; Long-term loan of No Hero Foundation 

The photos below are details of an acrylic on canvas painting by Sam Francis (Untitled, 1981) photographed through a microscope by the Conservator Modern Art of Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede (The Netherlands).

 Sam Francis 1981

"Untitled" under the microscope

Sam Francis 1981
Sam Francis 1981
Sam Francis 1981 Sam Francis 1981

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sam Francis in the Anderson Collection

A major work by Sam Francis, "Red in Red," from 1955, will be on permanent display in the new Anderson Collection building, scheduled to open at Stanford University in 2015.

Sam Francis, "Red in Red, 78.38 x 78.38 inches, oil on canvas

Purchased by the Andersons in 1969 from dealer Martha Jackson, "Red in Red" was painted by Francis in his Paris studio on the Rue Tiphaine, and was first exhibited in 1955 at the  Galerie Rive Droite, Paris. 

Francis at Galerie Rive Droite, Paris, 1955; photo © Pierre Boulat/Cosmos. 

For more information about the Anderson Collection building, click here.