David M. Roth reviews the exhibition Sam Francis: Five Decades of Abstract Expressionist Painting from California Collections @ the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, on view through April 20, 2014.
Roth writes that "this exhibit makes clear, some of the strongest influences on Francis’ approach to painting were his own near-death experiences. They arrived at regular intervals. The first came after a WWII air training exercise, when it was discovered, following a crash, that he had spinal tuberculosis... In his first mature works, you can see precisely how his early experiences – flight, the study of medicine and botany and watching the play of light from his hospital bed – informed his painting. Light, in particular, seems to be the subject of a suite of early works that open the show... Notable among them are several untitled works from 1957-59 that make direct reference to the body, in particular, to the spine. They feature bold-colored shapes, splayed and lightly spattered – key components of what would later be dubbed post-painterly abstraction, a term applied by Clement Greenberg to a diverse group of artists who leaned toward open compositions made of washes and areas of poured color."