Francis was initially influenced by the work of abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Clyfford Still. He spent the 1950s in Paris, having his first exhibition there in 1952. While there he became associated with Tachisme. He later spent time in Japan, and some have seen an influence from Zen Buddhism in his work.
Francis spent some time in Paris executing entirely monochromatic works, but his mature pieces are generally large oil paintings with splashed or splattered areas of bright contrasting color, with areas of white canvas left to show through.
Francis painted large murals for the Kunsthalle, Basel in 1956-8 and for the Chase Manhattan Bank, New York in 1959. In the early 1960s, Francis began his “Edge” series in which paint is sometimes confined to the margins of the canvas.
Francis returned to California during the 1960s and continued painting, mainly in Los Angeles, but also in Tokyo where he lived primarily in 1973-4. During the final three decades of his career his style of large scale bright Abstract Expressionism, which featured spontaneous and gestural applications of acrylic paint and washes, was also closely associated with Color Field painting.
In 1984 Francis founded The Lapis Press with the goal of producing unusual and timely texts in visually compelling formats.
During the last year of his life, suffering from prostate cancer and unable to paint with his right hand after a fall, in a final burst of energy he used his left hand to complete a dazzling series of about 150 small paintings before he died.
Sam Francis, an American Abstract Expressionist whose paintings and prints have received international acclaim. Often associated with the second generation of Abstract Expressionists whose work emerged in the 1950s, Francis’ pioneering style helped to establish the movement on the West Coast as well as throughout the world. His vibrant canvases—often massive in scale—have also been claimed by the Color Field movement of the 1950s because of their richly saturated hues. That Francis’ art cannot be reduced to a single movement speaks to his consistently innovative interpretations and manipulations of color throughout the second half of the twentieth century.
Francis maintained studios in Los Angeles, New York, Bern, Tokyo, and Paris while exhibiting throughout the United States and Europe. His extensive travel not only situated his work within an international milieu, but also greatly informed his practice through contact with new aesthetic sensibilities. Inspiration from French masters including Claude Monet and Henri Matisse reinforced Francis’ predisposition for luminous color. Yet his dripping, organic forms can at times appear brooding and contemplative, recalling his early encounters with works by Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still. Francis’ original motifs and evocations of vast space demonstrate his energetic curiosity and absolute mastery of color.
“1 Cent Life” began as a simple idea by artist Walasse Ting in 1962, developed during talks he had with his friend the artist Sam Francis. Ting wanted to combine international artists and different styles into a single book, linking them together in one collective spirit alongside his own art and poetry.
“1 Cent Life” was a landmark publication from 1964, and now a collectable book based on the impressive artwork it contains. It was a revolutionary tract for a collective aesthetic; an assembled vision of Pop and European abstraction, featuring flat hard-edged and splatter painting; biomorphic art, splashing florescent colors and monochromes all meeting up in a single loud and dynamic package. “1 Cent Life” is among the most beautifully conceived and artistic book-works of the 1960s, unlike anything published before or after.
With large empty spaces next to areas of maximum color saturation and layered density, “1 Cent Life” was an inspirational book of 1960s design and spirit – a polyglot enterprise –and certainly Ting’s best known work.
“1 Cent Life” is a large elephant-folio unbound book containing 62 lithographs made by 28 European and American artists with 62 letterpress poems by Walasse Ting and set in multi-colored inks. The lithography was realized and printed in Paris by Maurice Beaudet and the typography carried out in handset letterpress by George Girard. The book was published by E. W. Kornfeld, Bern, Switzerland in 1964, and edited by artist Sam Francis.
Ting’s poems are jarring and mystical, sometimes epic and soaring, screamed out in all-capitalized letters or whispered in lower-case, creating a language lost in limbo, choked off from reality, lacking standard grammar and punctuation, soaked with impulsive wit and exoticism – a language of a complete new consciousness – a tongue that is bound with the earth and sky, inflamed and out of sync with technology and the world. Ting is difficult but always true to himself.
“1 Cent Life” was dedicated to the maverick Detroit-based contemporary art collector Florence Barron, most famously known as the woman who in 1963 commissioned Andy Warhol to produce his first self-portraits. It is speculated that Florence Barron put up the funds necessary to print the edition, as one of the main themes of her collection was her love of books and words and their relationship to contemporary art, advertising media and culture. Florence may have just been close friends with Ting, an artist she supported and promoted, among her friends and contacts.
In addition to the original printing of 1900 unsigned copies, there was a numbered portfolio edition of 100 signed copies in a pink cloth-covered solander box. There are 62 original lithographs in colors by; Pierre Alechinsky, Karel Appel, Enrico Baj, Alan Davie, Jim Dine, Oyvind Fahlstrom, Sam Francis, Robert Indiana, Alfred Jensen, Asgar Jorn, Allan Kaprow, Alfred Leslie, Roy Lichtenstein, Joan Mitchell, Kiki O.K., Claes Oldenburg, Mel Ramos, Robert Rauschenberg, Reinhold, J.P. Riopelle, James Rosenquist, Antonio Saura, Kimber Smith, K.R.H. Sonderberg, Walasse Ting, Bram Van Velde, Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann.
The chosen title; “1 Cent Life” is ambiguous and unclear. His respect for the low and neglected is evident throughout the book, where painting, women and food are at the core of Ting’s life and there is little need for monetary considerations. Prostitutes, bums, movie stars, the Pope and J.F.K. are given equal billing in the poems.
There is no hierarchy or order to “1 Cent Life”, no artist is featured and all pages are loose and removable. The title could refer to “one sent life” – a nod to the creator (artistic or spiritual) as in the unity of the collection of artists contained within. Ting’s ideas and canvas were always in the now, a reflection of the eternity present in everything.