During the 1960s, Francis’s abstraction underwent a series of startling seismic shifts. Moving away from his densely layered, hyper-activated canvases of the 1950s, his paintings become starkly open, flat, and minimal. In the aptly titled Edge paintings, the bright pigment - Francis’s true gift - rapidly retreats to the very borders of the canvas, leaving an unprecedented white void gaping at the center. Starting in 1970, Francis began to find his way out of that blank abyss and back into the explosive, colorful world he had previously inhabited. Slowly bringing his vibrant palette back into the center of his paintings, Francis rediscovered the joyful vitality that activated his earlier works. He began to work with a Pollock-like vigor, laying his canvas upon the floor and using a wet roller to crisscross powerful tracks of color across the surface. The resultant paintings hum with a creative force, an unbridled energy, that is absent from his paintings in the 1960s. Particularly evident in Untitled, this vibrant fission is stabilized by an underlying structural grid that, laser-like, gathers and focuses the frenzied energy of Francis’s brush. These Matrix paintings maintain a delicate balance between light and dark, energy and calm, chaos and order; at their most bewitching, Francis’s canvases approach the sublime.
In Untitled, beams of effervescent pigment converge at the center of the canvas in an eruption of color; as the eye moves out, this pulsating web clarifies into individual beams that firmly anchor the piece at the borders of the canvas. There is a strong, stabilizing verticality to the central form, though Francis never paints a single line. Instead, shimmering buds of yellow, turquoise, and scarlet bloom with abandon across the canvas, interspersed with pools of inky black and pinpricks of an electric, vibrant green. Between these interwoven beams of riotous pigment, zones of depthless white offer a quiet purity that counterbalances the frenetic energy of Francis’s brush. These spaces seem reserved for a moment of somber reflection, or perhaps, for a moment of intimate communion between artist and viewer. Within the colorful expanse of Untitled, the viewer is invited to share in Francis’s overwhelming enthusiasm for painting and, simultaneously, to marvel at his superb mastery of his own creative genius.
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