Claire Falkenstein

Click on an image for a larger view

Claire Falkenstein
1908-1997

An Oregon native who worked in Paris, San Francisco, and Venice California throughout her career explored many mediums including sculpture, paintings, prints, wallpaper, and jewelry. Falkenstein metal sculpture ignored popular trends at the time, in addition to her sculptural jewelry made from gold, silver, platinum, bronze, copper, and steel. While working in Italy in the 1950’s Falksenstein made one of her greatest discoveries. Falksenstein developed a way to “fuse” together glass and metal into single pieces. This technique became synonymous with her creative process and influenced her experimental jewelry-making and sculpture production.

Claire Falkenstein was an innovative and prolific Abstract Expressionist sculptor, famous for her striking and often controversial metal and glass public art. Using thickets of welded metal, melted glass, ribbons of clay, and interlocking wood pieces, Falkenstein forged, fired, sawed, welded, and constructed abstract forms that reflect the changing scientific and philosophical trends of the twentieth century. For almost a century, the artist used new industrial materials and technologies to create architectural elements; engineered windows, doors, and gates; designed wallpaper, furniture, jewelry; and melded the traditional definitions of sculpture, painting, and prints into new media.
Falkenstien’s career began in Coos Bay, Oregon, where the natural forms found along the beaches stimulated her interest in the expressive qualities of negative space and the physical harmony of the natural world. Upon graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, the artist had solidified her modernist style and developed her passion for experimentation with both artistic concepts and physical media. Paris was her next home, where she befriended Michel Tapié, an avant-garde art connoisseur and intellectual who championed the fusion of physics, mathematics, and art. Falkenstein developed her interest in topological concepts and theories about the continuing flow of matter and space. Falkenstein was commissioned to create the gates for Peggy Guggenheim’s museum in Venice, Italy. This work exemplifies Falkenstein’s “never-ending screen”- metal webbing interspersed with chunks of shimmering glass in a repeated pattern to form a seemingly endless field. This model was later used in her largest commission; fifteen towering stained glass windows for St. Basil’s Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles. The kaleidoscopic colors and reflections, emphasized by the irregular shapes and angles of the windows, create a dynamic three-dimensional space.
Falkenstein returned to America in 1960. She created a series of public works throughout Los Angeles and the surrounding areas including the highly controversial fountain of copper tubing interspersed with Venetian glass for the California Federal Savings and Loan Association. Falkenstein worked until she was almost ninety, never stopping in her quest to create works in every feasible media and exploring the infinite possibilities of space.