Contemplating East Asia: Mark Tobey and Sam Francis

June 20, 2014 - August 31, 2014

Painting of black circle inside purple circle

In juxtaposing little-known works on paper by Mark Tobey (1890-1976) and Sam Francis (1923-1994) from the collections of the Ackland and the North Carolina Museum of Art, this exhibition invites reflection on the nature and extent of East Asian influence on their work, especially as it relates to form, chance, and space. With the beginning of the Cold War, a number of artists associated with Abstract Expressionism exhibited works that implied an interest in, if not the direct stimulus of East Asian art and thought. Sharing in this new internationalism, Tobey and Francis each maintained an enduring engagement with East Asia through reading, writing and travel. Contemplating East Asia: Mark Tobey and Sam Francis focuses on how two American artists participated in these emergent networks of influence and exchange, suggesting an enrichment of existing accounts that focus on the Euro-American dimension of postwar abstract painting.

Organized by Russell Gullette, 2014 Joan and Robert Huntley Art History Scholar.

Sam Francis, American, 1923-1994: Untitled, c. 1980, acrylic on paper. Ackland Art Museum, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 2010.47.3. Gift of The Sam Francis Foundation, California.