Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Presents Sam Francis: Rapid Fluid Indivisible Vision

SEPTEMBER 18, 2015

(Charlotte N.C.) – Considered one of the premier colorists of the 20th century, American artist Sam Francis (1923 - 1994) is best known for dramatic, lushly painted works comprised of vivid pools of color, thinly applied. Drips, gestures, and splatters of paint in his work have led to his identification as a second-generation Abstract Expressionist, but Francis has also been compared to Color Field artists on the basis of large, fluid sections of paint that seem to extend beyond the confines of the pictorial surface.

Opening today, Sam Francis: Rapid Fluid Indivisible Vision brings together a diverse selection of works in oil, acrylic, watercolor, aquatint and lithograph that trace the artist’s career from the 1940s to the 1980s. In addition to nine works from the Bechtler Collection, the exhibition comprises works by Sam Francis on loan from the Sam Francis Foundation, Bank of America, North Carolina Museum of Art, Mint Museum, Davidson College and private collections. The exhibition runs September 18, 2015 through March 7, 2016.

Francis’s lyrical hand, sense of movement and capturing of light and color as well as the sheer energy of his gestural images embrace and define a beauty that he found inherent in the exploration of one’s imagination. Though his painterly, expressionistic world appears uncalculated in its freeform presentation, Francis was guided by his intelligence, masterly control of the brush and gut-felt intuition in capturing the beauty of human emotion.

“Although Sam Francis remains an important and influential artist throughout Western Europe and Eastern Asia, his work is not often on view in museums in the United States and is rarely studied in art history classes,” said Bechtler Museum of Modern Art curator Jennifer Edwards, who designed the Sam Francis exhibition. “Francis incorporated psychology, spirituality, philosophy and literature into his visual art practice and was engaged in scientific and technological developments. I think these complex aspects of the artist will appeal Charlotte’s diverse audiences.”

Central threads running throughout the show are inspiration, mentorship and collaboration, as seen in the 1¢ Life portfolio on view in the exhibition. Francis co-edited the portfolio in 1964 with poet/painter Walasse Ting.  Displaying a range of approaches that dominated the art world in the early 1960s, the vibrant lithographs in 1¢ Life showcase Francis and other second-generation Abstract Expressionists. The publication includes works by Joan Mitchell, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Karel Appel, Andy Warhol, Jean-Paul Riopelle and others.

The use of color lithography in 1¢ Life was a bold choice during a time when most American artists associated the medium with commercial printing. Ting and Francis challenged American artists to reconsider the possibilities of lithography and collaborated with European printmakers to produce it. Featured are limited edition color lithographs which incorporate American Pop art and European Expressionism. Ting's poetry flows throughout the pages uniting the art.  

In conjunction with artwork of Sam Francis and the 1¢ Life portfolio, works from the Bechtler Collection of artists who were working near Francis in time, spirit, or place are on view to explicate the extent that Francis embodied and influenced modern art.

Works by Sam Francis are featured in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MoMA, National Gallery of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Tate Gallery, Walker Art Center and Kunstmuseum Basel.

The exhibition is generously sponsored by Abbot Downing.

“Abbot Downing is honored to sponsor this exhibition of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, which echoes our mission,” said David Parker, managing director of the Abbot Downing Charlotte office.  “Just as the Bechtler family passed its shared values – the love of art, collecting, and sharing – from one generation to the next, Abbot Downing focuses on preserving and growing the wealth of multi-generational families and their shared legacies.”

Exhibition-Related Programs

October 8 |Modernism + Film: Screening of the documentary The Painter Sam Francis.

October 20 | Guest Lecture: Debra Burchett-Lere, President and Executive Director of the Sam Francis Foundation, presents the lecture Insights into Sam Francis’s Fluid Nature.

January 15 |Third Fridays Free: The Bechtler kicks off its Third Fridays Free program with a focus on Sam Francis. Free admission is offered from 5 to 9 p.m. along with exhibition tours, watercolor art activities and specialty cocktails.

February 15 | Family Day: Hands-on art activities for kids based on the artistic techniques of painter Sam Francis.

Exhibition Sponsor 

This exhibition is made possible with a generous grant from Abbot Downing, a Wells Fargo boutique business, serving families of significant wealth.

The exhibition is organized in cooperation with the Sam Francis Foundation, California.  

About the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is dedicated to the exhibition of mid-20th-century modern art. It is named after the family of Andreas Bechtler who assembled and inherited a collection created by seminal figures in modernism. The museum is located at Levine Center for the Arts, 420 South Tryon Street, Charlotte. Operating hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.; closed Tuesdays. For museum details visit

About Abbot Downing

Abbot Downing, a Wells Fargo business, provides planning; asset management; private banking; family dynamics and education; and trust, fiduciary and administrative services to more than 600 families in all 50 states, as well as foundations and endowments. Abbot Downing and its predecessor firms have a 42-year history serving ultra-high-net-worth clients. Abbot Downing is the world’s ninth-largest family office based on assets, according to the 2014 Bloomberg Markets survey. The original Abbot Downing built the iconic stagecoaches that have come to represent Wells Fargo.

 # # # #

ARTWORK IMAGES: Artwork images from Sam Francis: Rapid Fluid Indivisible Vision are available upon request. Contact Stephanie Lepore, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Graphic Designer, at   or 704.353.9206

MEDIA CONTACT: Sharon Holm, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Director of Communications and Marketing,, office 704.353.9204 / mobile 704.975.2363

return to press room

Media Contact

Hillary Hardwick
Vice President of Marketing and Communications
704.353.9204 (office)

ex © 2023 Bechtler Museum of Modern Art All images and content copyright. All rights reserved. Credits: Design: MODE. Artwork Photography: JoAnn Sieburg-Baker, David Ramsey General Photography: Eric Bahrs, Mitchell Kearney, Gary O'Brien, Nancy Pierce, Maxim Vakhovskiy Copywriting: Pam Davis Charlotte Skyline Photo: courtesy of Visit Charlotte School of Paris: John Boyer (Copy), MODE (Design)
© 2023 Bechtler Museum of Modern Art | 420 South Tryon Street | Charlotte, North Carolina 28202 | 704.353.9200