“Color is Light on Fire”: Sam Francis at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

The fine folks at the Pasadena Museum of California Art invited me to attend and photograph last month’s opening of the current and fabulous Sam Francis exhibit. Sam Francis was an abstract painter, printmaker and California-native whose works spanned over five decades. His work is full of color and texture, and his approach to his work inspiring. Christian accompanied me to the opening looking as dapper as always. Also dapper? The fancy man in the pink linen blazer… :)

Sam Francis at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Sam Francis at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Sam Francis at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Sam Francis at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Sam Francis at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Sam Francis at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Sam Francis at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Sam Francis at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Sam Francis at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Sam Francis at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

Previously unknown to me, I found Sam Francis to be a fascinating character. His pieces were arranged by decade. As you move through the museum, you can see the passing of time in his work. One of my favorite quotes posted on the wall reveals Francis’ understanding of the development of his work:

“Francis’ paintings changed over time, but he did not feel one painting was more complete than another or that one was created through the development of another. ‘All mistakes are left in the painting. I will add something but never alter or remove it…If I have a blue I don’t like, I don’t work at it and change it to another blue. I will add another color to it, like green. But the original blue will still be there.'”

I find it hard not to be haunted by my own past work (I’m sure I’m not alone in this). The image I was once proud of is now only an embarrassing reminder of how little I knew then, omygod why did I think that was good?, etc. etc. But it seems Francis painted with less of an emphasis on himself as the painter and more on the piece he was painting, allowing it to evolve and be what it would be. I suppose if you approach your work like that, it leaves less space to feel the pressure of perfection. I like that.

The exhibit runs until January 5 and I highly recommend it. Insider tip: the PMCA is free the first Friday of every month (12–5pm) and the third Thursday of every month (5–8pm). Alternatively, PMCA memberships are extremely affordable and come with lots of perks, including a discount at their gift shop. And not to sound like the type of museum-goer that Banksy hates but their gift shop is really rad, the perfect place for picking up creative, colorful gifts for friends and family. They sell an awesome assortment of prints.

Pasadena Museum of California Art
490 E Union St.
Pasadena, CA 91101

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