Claire Falkenstein: Beyond Sculpture

Claire Falkenstein (1908–1997) was one of America’s most experimental and productive twentieth-century artists. She relentlessly explored media, techniques, and processes with uncommon daring and intellectual rigor. Though she was respected among the burgeoning post-World-War-II art scene in the United States and Europe, her disregard for the commodification of art coupled with her peripatetic movement from one art metropolis to another made her an elusive figure as well. Falkenstein first worked in the San Francisco Bay Area, then in Paris and New York, and finally in Los Angeles. She was involved with art groups as radical as the Gutai group in Japan and art autre in Paris and secured a lasting position in the vanguard, which she held until her death in 1997. Falkenstein’s current reputation rests on her sculpture, and her work in three dimensions was often radical and ahead of her time. Uniquely prolific among artists, she began and ended her career as an inventive painter; her work also included printmaking, jewelry, glass, films, stage sets for dance, public murals, fountains, and monumental architectural commissions, including the gates to the Guggenheim Collection in Venice and the glass window “sculptures” for St. Basil Church in Los Angeles. Although Falkenstein’s extensive oeuvre can appear bewilderingly diverse and close to possessing what French critic Michel Tapié praised as and Marcel Duchamp advocated for as a “style-less style,” virtually all of her works are based on several distinctive structural systems, which became her personal, formal vocabulary. This retrospective traces and details the development of Falkenstein’s work both chronologically and geographically, through the inclusion of approximately 65 key works—encompassing nearly every medium she explored—from the early 1930s through the 1990s.

Curated by Jay Belloli, Claire Falkenstein: Beyond Sculpture is organized by the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The exhibition is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Pasadena Arts & Culture Commission and the City of Pasadena Cultural Affairs Division; the Southern California Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; Pasadena Art Alliance; Kim and Al Eiber; Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York; the California Art Company, LLC; and the Pasadena Museum of California Art’s Board of Directors and Ambassador Circle. Following its debut at the PMCA, the exhibition will travel to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition. 

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Listen below for an audio recording of In Dialogue: Style-less Style (May 21, 2016):