Saturday, June 2 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Paintings) American Abstract Expressionist painter, Sam Francis (1923-1994): Techniques and materials inform conservation treatment in the 21st century.

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Debra Burchett-Lere, director of the Sam Francis Foundation and Aneta Zebala, conservator in private practice, have investigated Francis’s materials through ongoing conservation interventions of Francis works and in preparation for the 2011 release of Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings, 1946-1994, published by UC, Berkeley. Paint samples were taken and analyzed from 34 paintings from the 1940s to 1990s for the upcoming GCI publication (2018 release) Sam Francis: The Artist's Materials. This in-depth study includes paintings from collections of Beyeler Museum, Basel and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Through systematic study and analysis, new information has come to light regarding unknown aspects of Francis’s practices to form the basis for this study. He enthusiastically used new commercial materials when they became available, and developed his own paints to achieve the saturation of color and desired consistency of paint. Newly discovered and existing photographs of his studios in Bern, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and Santa Monica, show a range of brands of materials that he used both on canvas and paper including watercolor, oil, acrylic, solvent-based acrylics, commercial acrylic emulsions, inks and custom-mixed acrylic dispersion paints. Before 1960 Francis used oil paints in a viscous medium, often with wax and resins. He began to use acrylic paint in the late 1950s, at times combining acrylic and oil paint with other water-borne media in one painting. This was not part of a structured system of experimentation, but rather he willed his paints to co-exist on the surface regardless of medium. Francis’s expansive use of blue paint created a misconception that he used many blue pigments. The extensive pigment analysis identified three blue colors: ultramarine, cobalt and phthalocyanine blue, and an unexpected twenty-one different reds in the works studied. He reinvented the physical act of painting, and made the most of drips, splatters and controlled surface accidents in works of all sizes. He manipulated surface tension of watered down paint and distinct optical and handling properties of acrylic and dispersion paints and created a range of surfaces varying from washes of color, tinted gesso, to pulsating thick orbs. Wet-in-wet and wet-over-dry techniques suggest both an immediacy and interval of time between painting stages. Understanding artist’s materials is a critical part of any conservation intervention. Many of Francis’s paintings exhibit highly chromatic surfaces, where chameleon-like colors exhibit metameric color change, in different light sources. Additional atypical effects such as bronzing, fluorescence or opalescence present in Francis works add to a challenging task of color matching of modern synthetic organic pigments. Large passages of exposed white priming make Francis’s canvases vulnerable to surface soiling and damage, which presents a constant problem of cleaning his acrylic paintings. In view of the scientific and conservation findings presented in the Tate publication Modern Paints Uncovered, it is critical to revisit the practices of aqueous-based cleaning of Sam Francis’s paintings. It is our intent to share discoveries in the artist’s studio practices to help understand thousands of paintings that make up his oeuvre.

avatar for Aneta Zebala

Aneta Zebala

Conservator, Zebala & Partners
Aneta Zebala is the founding partner of Zebala & Partners conservation firm, and Head Conservator of her Paintings Conservation Studio in Santa Monica, CA. She has Masters Degree of Paintings Conservation, Department of Easel and Wall Paintings Conservation (Academy of Fine Arts in... Read More →

avatar for Debra Burchett-Lere

Debra Burchett-Lere

Executive Director, Sam Francis Foundation
Author, curator, and fine art appraiser Debra Burchett-Lere first started working with Sam Francis in the mid-1980s when she was the director at Gemini G.E.L. (the renowned contemporary print publishing company in Los Angeles with Francis, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly... Read More →

Saturday June 2, 2018 2:30pm - 3:00pm
Texas Ballroom A Marriott Marquis Houston

Attendees (64)