“Claire Falkenstein: An Expansive Universe” extended through October 27, 2012 at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts is in celebration of the first major publication detailing Claire Falkenstein’s entire career. Claire Falkenstein, with essays by art historians Susan M. Andersonand Maren Henderson, art writer and curator Michael Duncan, and an introduction by Philip Linhares, President of the Falkenstein Foundation and former Chief Curator of Art at the Oakland Museum of California.
Claire Falkenstein’s (1908-1997) work, with its innovative use of materials such as glass, metal, ceramic and resin, reveals an artist with an indomitable spirit; an innovator who so pushed traditional boundaries, that she stands uniquely apart from other artists in the mainstream; many who would be counted among her admirers.
Falkenstein’s earliest exhibition history dates back to circa 1930, and her first solo museum exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art dates to 1948. Photographic images from that museum exhibition (illustrated in the newly-released book) attest to the extraordinary modernity of the artist (and the advanced curatorial leaning of the San Francisco Museum for that time). Many works in that exhibition are presently shown here in this gallery. Before moving to Paris in 1950, she taught briefly at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, along-side Clyfford Still, David Park, Hassel Smith, Richard Diebenkorn, Edward Corbett and Clay Spohn.
In France, she quickly became affiliated with the avant-garde of Paris including Jean Dubuffet, Hans Hartung, Karl Appel and others. The important critic, Michel Tapié took particular interest in Falkenstein and included her in his now-famous 1952 exhibition, “Un Art Autre” at Studio Paul Fachetti. That historic exhibition was recently featured in Paris, as Christie’s “re-constructed” the exhibition, including Claire Falkenstein’s monumental “Hommage a Gaudi” now in the French National Museum Collection. In Paris, Falkenstein’s circle of friends included the American art historian, Herbert Read and artists Paul Jenkins, Mark Tobey and Sam Francis. Henry Moore was among those who came through her studio to remark on Falkenstein’s extraordinary sensibility which, while formed through an early interest in cubism and especially surrealism, was hugely informed by interests in physics, mathematics and biology. Her fascination with the possibilities of chance and choice presciently parallel current views of our expanding universe. Falkenstein’s ability to move sculpture to non-traditional realms, whereby she incorporates and suggests both the expansiveness of form as well as the compression of space, has established her as one of the most important modern artists in this medium.
Her patronage proved impressive with many important commissions. Falkenstein is well-known as the creator of Peggy Guggenheim’s Venice palazzo gates. Her first museum exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art was in 1940, followed by her works being shown at such prestigious museums as the Louvre and the Rodin Museums of Paris. Her works were shown at the Tate Gallery in London, Whitney Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, Art Institute of Chicago, the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Venice, National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institute, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Armand Hammer Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
She moved to Venice, California in 1963, essentially removing herself from the art world centers of Paris, London and New York. While she enjoyed considerable success and patronage living in L.A. and at the time of her passing could possibly boast the presence of more public sculpture than any other artist in this city (some now destroyed), Los Angeles was not easily able to hospitably absorb an artist who stood so apart from its clichéd notions of its self-perceived “art scene”.
This stunning exhibition as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time reveals Claire Falkenstein to be a pioneering artist of the 20th century.