Art: Back from the Rim

A lot of ink has been spilt this past decade on the question of who was or was not a "first-generation" Abstract Expressionist. Since America is apt to regard its artists as either seed bulls or vicarious aristocrats, the squabbles over lineage tend to be obsessive. But the historicist view of priorities has its shallows. Several fine painters who came to maturity in the 1950s have been blurred by the filter of Who Did What First.

A case in point is Sam Francis. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that in the early...

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