Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Peter Selz on Sam Francis: "He is the most important California artist ever."

Art historian Peter Selz, now 94, was a close friend of Sam Francis, and remains an avid supporter of the artist's legacy. In a recent conversation with Debra Burchett-Lere, the Director of the Sam Francis Foundation, Selz said of Francis: "He is the most important California artist ever."

Peter Selz at his home in Berkeley, California, in 2012 with Sam Francis, Iris, 1965/67, acrylic on canvas,
891⁄2 x 71 in. (227.33 x 180.34 cm); photo by Debra Burchett-Lere

It is a strong statement -- especially considering the acclaim that Richard Diebenkorn continues to receive -- but Selz asserts that Francis' international reputation needs to be considered. 

"Sam is probably the most international of all the American artists of his time. I mean Richard Diebenkorn is a well-known Californian who is collected internationally, and there are many others, but Sam goes far beyond that." 

 The dialogue with Burchett-Lere, which will be included in the opening of the catalog for the upcoming exhibition "Sam Francis: Five Decades of Abstract Expressionism from California Collections," is a wide-ranging conversation in which Selz offers a number of revelations and recollections. In one anecdote Selz recounts his intitial reaction to Sam's "Basel Murals:"

"I remember when I saw the Basel Mural Triptych in the Documenta III exhibition, I had been in Europe quite a long time and had seen some works by Sam here and there. But when I saw that triptych I was really flabbergasted—I mean the light, the air, the color. There simply was nobody who had that sense of color that Sam had. Nobody.

Selz also states that during his tenure as a curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York he had planned to give Francis a one-man exhibition, but that the show never happened due to a change in the museum's directorship. Another interesting note: Sam Francis was the last artist to receive an honorary art degree from UC Berkeley. The degree was awarded to him after his 1968 exhibition at the Berkeley Museum. 

As the dialogue between Selz and Burchett-Lere reveals, Peter Selz occupied a unique position in Sam's life, and Selz still misses the connection: 

I miss a really close personal friend, a person whom I could talk to about many things: my feelings, mydreams, his dreams, our thoughts...It was just a very close personal relationship between an artist and his critic. I miss him a lot.

Debra Burchett-Lere and Peter Selz will be discussing Sam Francis at a public panel at the Pasadena Museum of California Art on Sunday, August 11th at 3:PM:

Click here for more information on the Panel Discussion. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sam Francis Basel Mural II on view at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

"Basel Mural II" by Sam Francis will be on view at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam through September 15, 2013, sharing a gallery with Ellworth Kelly's 1963 freestanding aluminum sculpture "Blue Red Rocker."  The Stedelijk Museum re-opened in September of 2012 -- under the direction of former MOCA curator Anne Goldstein -- after being closed for eight years of renovation and expansion.  For that reason, Basel Mural II has not been on public display for over a decade.

The mural on display in Amsterdam was originally part of a trio that has been separated since 1964, when they last hung in the Basel Kunsthalle. In 1967 "Basel Mural I" was donated by Francis to the Pasadena Art Museum, which later became the Norton Simon Museum. It now shares a room at the Simon with two vertical fragments of "Basel Mural III" at the Simon. 

In a blog written about "Basel Mural I" for the Huffington Post, John Seed noted:

"Gorgeous, seemingly alive, and resolutely abstract, "Basel Mural I," and the two other murals that once accompanied it, have their aesthetic roots in the vast, horizonless Monet "Nymphéas" installed on the lower floor of the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris."

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Free Floating Clouds" by Lorenzo Pagliei: a Musical Homage to Painter Sam Francis

Lorenzo Pagliei, a composer, electronic musician, pianist and conductor, is the creator of "Free Floating Clouds" a 14 minute 18 second long composition created as an homage to Sam Francis. Recorded in 2004 the composition requires 13 musicians, and was conducted by Andrea Panieri, and recorded and released by Edizioni Suvini-Zerboni of Milan.

Lornezo Pagliei

Portions of "Free Floating Clouds" -- and other compositions by Pagliei -- can be heard on Click  here to listen.