"The density, which is the ‘seen’ sun, is a point of energy. Reciprocal action from interior to exterior fluxes into a furling of expanding rays. Witness the change in force from continuity to expansion wherein a quantity: density develops into a quality: motion. Beginning with a density of light in space, the sun is not completed until it sets structured matter in motion. A charged atmosphere participates in an endlessly changing complex of transmuting substances.” -Claire Falkenstein,1957
(New York—April 5, 2018) Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is pleased to present Claire Falkenstein: Matter in Motion, a survey that will feature significant examples from the prolific oeuvre of Claire Falkenstein (American, 1908-1997). Celebrated for her exquisite structures of fused metal and glass, the exhibition will also include works in a range of media, from early ceramic and wood sculptures to seminal explorations in metal to dynamic paintings and works on paper. The exhibition, Falkenstein’s second large-scale solo show at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated color catalogue, featuring a reprint of an Archives of American Art oral history interview conducted between the artist and Paul Karlstrom in 1995. The exhibition will be on view simultaneously with Claire Falkenstein: Time Elements at the University of Buffalo Art Galleries (May 6-July 29, 2018), an institution that preserves the legacy of gallerist Martha Jackson who championed and represented Falkenstein in the 1960s.
Claire Falkenstein: Matter in Motion takes its title from one of the guiding principles of Falkenstein’s work, which she explained in an artist’s statement she wrote in 1957 for an exhibition at Galerie Stadler, in Paris. The “quasi-science” thread that connects Falkenstein’s work in an array of different materials stems from such influences as Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and an interest in physics, mathematics, and the expanding universe. These notions embodied her constantly evolving ideas of motion and structure that define her work. The exhibition will encompass the breadth of these explorations, categorized within one or more of five fundamental systems that outline her methodologies: 1. the lattice structure (a network of welded intersections much like a tissue composed of cells); 2. the sign (a modular abstract element that could be continuously multiplied into a “set” and then again into an “ensemble” – or the resulting structure or sculpture); 3. the screen structure (a two-dimensional element related to “the sign” and “set structure” extended, theoretically, ad infinitum – representing space itself); 4. the truss structure (the “Never Ending Screen” in three-dimensional form); and 5. the topological structure (metal structures related to a series of Suns which fuse interior and exterior, alternately contracting and expanding and simultaneously occupying and creating space). These theories were illustrated in sketches – “structures drawings” – that Falkenstein used to define the underlying components of her work and her philosophical approach to science that was the basis of her aesthetic concerns.
Claire Falkenstein (1908-1997) was born in Coos Bay, a small Pacific lumber town in Oregon. She began sculpting as a child, but did not intend to studyart when she entered the University of California Berkeley in 1927. However, it soon became her passion, and in 1930 she graduated with a major in art and minors in philosophy and anthropology. That same year, the East-West Gallery in San Francisco mounted her first solo exhibition, a rare achievement for such a young artist. In 1933, Falkenstein received a grant to study at Mills College in Oakland with Alexander Archipenko, who introduced the principles of implied motion and spatial relationships in abstract sculpture. During her studies at Mills, she also worked with Bauhaus émigrés László Moholy-Nagy and Gyorgy Kepes.
By 1940, Falkenstein was living in San Francisco and working predominantly in wood and ceramics, creating abstract, organic three-dimensional forms with moveable parts. Her work was first shown in New York City in 1944, when the Bonestell Gallery mounted a solo exhibition. In the late 1940s, she began teaching at the California School of Fine Arts, where she met Clyfford Still, whose abstract expressionist paintings had an important influence on her approach to sculpture, and she began to allow more room for the accidental and the spontaneous. Falkenstein’s 1948 exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art demonstrated her move towards a freer, open-form language.