Local Arts

New Bechtler Museum show features painter Sam Francis

Sam Francis, Composition: Yellow and Red, watercolor and gouache on paper, ca. 1956
Sam Francis, Composition: Yellow and Red, watercolor and gouache on paper, ca. 1956 © 2015 Sam Francis Foundation, California / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

“Sam Francis: Rapid Fluid Indivisible Vision” is on display through March 7 at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Five things to know:

1. Sam Francis (1923-1994) is renowned for his widely varied color palette, ranging from works that explore the hues of gray inspired by years in foggy Northern California to the dramatic energy in drips and splatters that have tied him to the second generation of abstract exhibitionists.

2. Among his five wives were his high school girlfriend, two women he met while working in Japan and California painter Muriel Goodwin.

3. Francis took a break from his premed studies to learn aviation and planned to fly for the Army Air Corps during World War II. He injured his spinal column in a 1943 crash landing and spent four years in bed recovering, where he took up painting. He painted for a time while lying on his stomach with the canvas beneath his bed. Part of his inspiration came from observing the interplay of sun and shadows as the day unfolded on his ceiling.

4. This show is the first to be designed for the museum by Jennifer Edwards, the Bechtler’s new curator. “Francis incorporated psychology, spirituality, philosophy and literature into his visual art practice and was engaged in scientific and technological developments,” she says.

5. Edwards wanted one of Francis’ giant canvases as part of the exhibition, but none could be located that weren’t mounted on stretchers, meaning they’d be impossible to get into the gallery. But there is one on view across the street in the atrium of the Mint Museum Uptown, a commanding 1979 untitled Francis that is 19 feet tall and 38 feet wide.

Want to go?

“Sam Francis: Rapid Fluid Indivisible Vision” at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, 420 South Tryon St., Charlotte, through March 7.

Regular admission: $8 adults, $4 children. Museum closed Tuesdays.

Movie: Biopic “The Painter Sam Francis,” 6 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Bechtler, $10.

More info: bechtler.org; 704-353-9200.