This work is identified with the interim identification number of SF82-010; SF82–036 in consideration for the forthcoming Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Unique Works on Paper. This information is subject to change as scholarship continues by the Sam Francis Foundation.
'Indeed, Francis’ art was, throughout his long career, an affirmation of the power of abstract color painting to embody authentic, deeply personal experience and to convey this in profound and immediate terms' -William C. Agee (William C. Agee, Sam Francis: Paintings 1947-1990, Los Angeles: 1999, p. 47).
With its intense splashes of blue, violet and black highlighted with specks of red and green, Untitled (Plumed Serpent) celebrates Sam Francis’ fervent engagement with the legacy of lyrical abstraction in the post-war period. The freedom of the paint’s gestural application, reminiscent of Jackson Pollock, appears to breathe life into each brushstroke and drip, lending the work an enlightening vibrancy. The shimmering glow of the acrylic paint takes form in an explosive and colorful exhibition and the artist attempted to “catch little essences of infinity that go floating by” (S. Francis, quoted in D. Burchett-Lere, Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings 1946-1994, Berkeley 2011, p. 241). The palette is a delicate juxtaposition of saturated palette on a warm white ground. There are both implosive and explosive qualities to this painting. The gestures are controlled, condensed, and singularly explosive, as if one were flying over a battlefield with landmines going off below. This is contrasted by the overall unity and the areas of paint, for the most part, remain independent of each other. Peter Selz, curator, art historian and personal friend of the artist once said, “Francis belongs to the French tradition of Monet, Bonnard, and Matisse—artists sensitive to the continuity of space, working with a hedonistic sense of color, and possessing a spontaneity deeply anchored in structure” (P. Selz, Sam Francis, New York, 1982, p. 43). The flecks of color that careen across the surface of Untitled (Plumed Serpent) are fleeting records of Francis’ physical virtuosity, the end result is a visually striking document of his actions, executed with complete precision and confidence.