Los Angeles

Sam Francis

I Gallery, La Jolla

This is an important show because it’s Sam Francis’s work, and it is also somewhat unsatisfactory for the same reason. Of course the élan and virtuosity that characterize him always are here, and his delight in making objects the eye can live on. Maybe that’s enough. But seeing the 20 or so prints shown here is like watching an exhibition baseball game. All the skills run around and make some great plays, but it really doesn’t matter who wins. To say this is not to say that a man should have a new look every once in a while, but only that respect for a big man is lessened when one catches him in an act of unadventurous self-indulgence.

For instance, there is a suite of four gorgeous large prints in this show entitled “Bright Jade Gold Ghost,” where richness of shape and richness of color are piled up and up and meticulously, flawlessly crafted. Eye and hand, everything—except that old tense crazybird taking off.

Perhaps it is all that coronation color hung around so one can’t see the king, for there’s one print, a small one, untitled, all black, rapid with invention and vision. The big minute.

John Reuschel