This work is registered with the Sam Francis Estate as archive number SFP 89-51.
In late 1980s, Sam Francis's work was consumed with a new power of emotion and anguish, its depth arising from the despair of his own personal life. The death of two close friends and his diagnosis of terminal prostrate cancer in 1989 unleashed in him a rage that he began to aggressively articulate into his paintings. As the present untitled picture demonstrates, Francis literally attacked his canvas with intense hues of acidic yellows and greens, bloody reds and fiery oranges, hurling and pouring the fluid paint in much the same way that Jackson Pollock once created his all-over compositions. Like Pollock, he now preferred to work on a mammoth scale: every gesture is endowed with an immense physicality and emotional directness; the explosive pools and whiplash lines of paint evoking a chaotic and primal universe. Phantom clouds of black float within the center like a disease amongst living corpuscles.
Untitled, 1989 was included as a pivotal painting in the major Sam Francis retrospective, which toured the world's museums between 1999-2001. Organizer, William Agee, wrote in the catalogue of the late 1980s: "These are some of Francis' best paintings, for he was working at a peak of emotional intensity that he perhaps had never attained before." (W. C. Agee, Sam Francis: Paintings 1947-1990, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1999, p. 46.)