“Sherron Francis: A Splash of Serenity, 1973-1977” at Lincoln Glenn: Art Exhibition Review

In the past couple of weeks, I have seen an insane amount of art, whether the booths at this year’s Frieze New York, exhibitions ahead of the latest fine art auctions at Sotheby’s, or gallery exhibitions around Manhattan. Throughout this time, “Sonic Lark” (1974), a long, rectangular piece by artist Sherron Francis, has kicked itself back to the front of my awareness time and again.

Sherron Francis at Lincoln Glenn

The painting is included in “Sherron Francis: A Splash of Serenity, 1973-1977,” an exhibition from the gallery Lincoln Glenn at its location in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. Francis eventually left active art-making, at least in terms of what she was prominently sharing publicly, and the gallery’s interest in bringing attention back to someone overlooked by some recountings of the century’s art history is, as an aside, quite a draw. It facilitates the thrill of discovery applied to someone who clearly earned it. I mean, just look at these paintings!

Francis’ paintings included in this exhibition vary considerably in size, from “Sonic Lark,” which is over nine feet long and two feet wide, to an untitled work from 1976 that’s just under four and a half feet in height. Further works fill out the range; there’s even another massive rectangle.

The actual content of the paintings is part of the color field tradition, in which the application of color often seems like the primary focus, with specific forms, lines, or other elements coming along by what feels like happenstance. Works, like some of what Lincoln Glenn was sharing from Francis, lean more into the relational side of these visual arts, finding newly elevating points from how two colors work together, with physical form — whether from the shape of the surface or the delineation of the splashes of color — buttressing that inwardly intermingling effect.

Lightning Strikes of Color

Francis’ paintings seem designed to start lifting themselves from their surfaces the minute you start looking.

A lot of the visual rhythms that make up the foundation for this paintings series come across as quickly moving.

“Sonic Lark” features a lengthy, shifting rectangle atop a backdrop of intermingled color including pink and a grayed out blue. The overlaid rectangle looks like a variant of seafoam green. You could easily see that area of color as laid down in one fell swoop, like the swing of a throng of people down a bustling sidewalk, the overarching form of which clearly originates in individual steps but jumps into something sharper and poignant, though still fueled by inward billowing.

It’s like a slightly evolved lightning strike, pushing outward but still individually forceful rather than disassembling or otherwise falling apart — all at a dramatic scale.

Sherron Francis, “Sonic Lark” (1974); Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 109 1/2 inches. Image courtesy of Lincoln Glenn

Francis’ patterns of applying paint — and other materials — seem relatively unpredictable, moving through a wide variety of spatial formulations atop those differently sized canvases. The freely shifting energy seems everyday in nature rather than ineffable. You could imagine these paintings like a series (only theoretically; they’re not defined as such) sharing a non-verbal side to a tale of moving through your house, looking for something that you just know is there, sitting somewhere.

There’s great spiritual depth to something arguably routine, or at least easily accessible as such.


Francis utilizes space suggestive of a backdrop or similar expanse to great effect, putting air into these exploratory 1970s paintings. The works thereby suggest relationships with external environments as much as an isolated emotional state, and as specifically paired here, I’m thinking of a flashy rhythm steeped in quiet longing, or at least looking. (It’s easy to ascertain why “serenity” is invoked in the exhibition’s title.)

The 1976 work that I mentioned above features a billowing layer of brown applied to not quite reach the canvas edges or full coverage within itself, letting underlying green remain evident and physically suggesting a cloud, perhaps.

An eight-foot-tall, untitled work from 1976 that’s also part of the exhibition reminded me, cursorily, of the large, sweeping strokes of color eventually defining works by Ed Clark, though a lot of the Clark examples I’ve seen are dated to after this.

Francis’ work puts a series of layers of horizontally stacked swathes of color atop a background again shifting between blue and gray. The color-layers grow from peach to luminescent green to a startlingly ensnaring, weighty red and pink. The stepped strokes of color comprising each of these layers float outside of mathematical precision, instead laying atop each other at artful, upwardly lifting angles.

Sherron Francis, Untitled (1975); Acrylic on canvas, 96 x 66 inches. Image courtesy of Lincoln Glenn

A Monument, and a City

It came across as monumental, showcasing, perhaps, a looping process of construction for a spiritual monolith fueled by forceful splashes of care. That feeling repeated throughout Francis’ paintings, balancing a look upwards with watching your step: a dream-like embrace of color in which the surroundings flicker.

I think of things like moving through New York City, where Francis herself has worked. There’s a firework of possibility, constantly running on a loop. Just consider how much visual art is circulating out there, before getting to anything else! But, the sidewalk is cracked. The propulsive energy sticks around, but eventually, you might trip on yourself, sending yourself home, whatever particular neighborhood is yours.

Francis’ paintings seem both energetic and quiet, with the quietude fully fleshed out into its own thing rather than presented as an absence of intensity. She finds the potential for powerful surges — like the electrifying “Sonic Lark” — in passing time, a cloud that realistically lingers behind suggestions of ensnaring form or towering crashes of color.

“Sherron Francis: A Splash of Serenity, 1973-1977” continues through June 8. Find out more about Francis here.

Sherron Francis, Untitled (1976); Acrylic on canvas, 52 x 28 inches. Image courtesy of Lincoln Glenn

Featured image: Sherron Francis, Untitled (1975); Acrylic on canvas, 96 x 66 inches. Image courtesy of Lincoln Glenn