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Sam Francis (1923-1994)
Facing Within
acrylic on canvas
65¾ x 84 in. (167 x 213.3 cm.)
Painted in 1975.
Acquired by the present owner, 1979
D.A. Lauer, Design Basics, New York, 1979, p. 24 (illustrated).
Sam Francis: Malningar 1976-1978, exh. cat., Stockholm, 1978 (illustrated).
Sam Francis: Peintures récentes 1976-1978, exh. cat., Paris, 1978 (illustrated).
P. Selz, Sam Francis, New York, 1982, p. 230, pl. 152 (illustrated).
D. Burchett-Lere, ed., Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonneé of Canvas and Panel Paintinges, Berkeley, 2011, no. SFF.662 (illustrated in color).
Zurich, Galerie Andre Emmerich, Amerikanische Malerei, 1978.

Lot Essay

Facing Within, 1975, is a superb example of one of the greatest series of Sam Francis' oeuvre, the Matrix paintings. His production during the 1970s and early 1980s was full of intensity and rediscovery. Francis found a way to ground himself within his art by re-establishing stability and balance of mind and body through the use of a formal grid. He established a kinetic harmony by colorfully painting a framework of opening, enclosing, encompassing activity, trying to "catch little essences of infinity that go floating by" (Francis quoted in D. Burchett-Lere, Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings 1946-1994, Sam Francis Foundation 2011, p. 241). The eye is drawn to the center of the painting, cathartically re-focusing energy and emotions and simultaneously offering a place of shared experience between artist and audience. Francis invited the viewer in when he said, "The center is reserved for you" (Ibid, p. 21). Facing Within effortlessly attracts its audience to its"center" and welcomes the exploration of an inner self.

Sam Francis created his large-scale Matrix paintings with industrial paint rollers and sponges, in addition to regular brushes, to evoke the natural and architectural beamlike forms and loose lattice constructions of this motif. He actively performed on the surface, immersing himself in the canvas and spreading colors with each inspired movement. Facing Within is the result of a physical, bodily experience. Francis's dance with the canvas revealed unexpected elements in each manipulation of the paint and maneuvering of images. "For me it became a more complete effort. It's almost as if I had to swim in the painting myself Those big ones I put on the floor so I had to walk in the painting and paint from within, not from without and so it becomes another kind of arena for me to work in and I never see the painting until it is finished it is a little bit like painting in the dark, which I've found to be a very rewarding experience to find something new in your work is probably the best thing you can do" (Ibid, p. 241).

Francis in his studio.
Betty Freeman Papers Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington.

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