This work is identified with the archival identification number of SFF.713 in consideration for the forthcoming addendum to the Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings, to be published by the Sam Francis Foundation. This information is subject to change as scholarship continues by the Sam Francis Foundation. This work is alternatively registered with the Sam Francis Foundation under archive number SFP-79-1.
Shimizu Kusuo was a prominent Japanese gallerist and director of the renowned Minami Gallery – the first art space in Japan to bring forth contemporary giants such as Joan Miro, Alberto Giacometti, Jasper Johns, and Sam Francis himself to the forefront of the French Post-Impressionist inclined Japanese art scene. Francis first met Shimizu in 1957 and the two soon struck up a long-lasting friendship; in parallel, the latter also took up the role as the artist’s dealer. Through Shimizu, Francis assimilated into the Japanese art scene by not only exhibiting in the Minami Gallery, but also by building strong connections with numerous leading Japanese artists such as Yoshihara Jiro and Yamaguchi Takeo. In 1966, Shimizu helped Francis realise his famous Pasadena Box series, initially created as a fundraising project for the Art Alliance of Pasadena Art Museum, and prompted the later establishment of Francis’ own Litho shop in Santa Monica to print his own lithographs in 1970. While Francis and Shimizu strode as comrades in the art world, they also enjoyed the leisurely company of each other at baseball matches as well as bars.
Shimizu’s determination to support Francis and their heartfelt friendship left a life-long imprint on the artist. In the spring of 1979, the sudden death of Shimizu left Francis in shock, and the artist attended Shimizu’s memorial in Japan and stayed with the latter’s family for a few weeks to mourn. The tragic incident affected Francis so deeply that the artist travelled around Europe to contemplate Shimizu’s death. Finding himself unable to revisit Japan after his friend’s passing, Francis wrote in a letter, “I have not felt like being in Japan without him.” (Debra Burchet-Lere, William C. Agee. Sam Francis: Catalogue raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings, 1946-1994. University of California Press, 2011, p. 252). During this period of lamentation, Francis spearheaded and organised the publication of an anthology of prints titled Homage to Kusuo Shimizu of Minami Gallery, whilst also creating the present painting as a moving chromatic requiem. The thick lyrical brushstrokes fashions a gridded map, leaving parts of the canvas white to create negative spaces that evoke a sense of depth, reserved for the viewer’s contemplation. Echoing Francis’ reflective aphorism, “Death has no/surface/only depth,” Requiem of Shimizu evokes not only the artist’s virtuoso but also embodies a significant chapter of the artist’s life.
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