A Vocabulary All Her Own: Claire Falkenstein’s “Point as a Set” Sculptures

February 9, 2016

The abstract artist Claire Falkenstein (1908–1997) was one of the most important and intriguing figures in post-war American art. She developed an artistic vocabulary all her own, drawing on influences that ranged from Abstract Expressionism and Einsteinian physics to the French avant-garde of the 1950s. Falkenstein’s signature enigmatic sculptures–brambled thickets of bent and welded copper tubing and intricate networks of metal and glass (seen in her most famous commission, the gates of Peggy Guggenheim’s palazzo-museum in Venice) reflect her ruminations on such themes as continuity and change, space and matter, and the interconnectedness of the infinite. On February 21, 2016 LAMA will offer two sculptures from Falkenstein’s Point as a Set series.

February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction featuring Frank Lloyd Wright’s George D. Sturges Residence and property from The Estate of Jack Larson to benefit The Bridges/Larson Foundation, as well as a Richard Prince painting.
Lot 54, Claire Falkenstein, Large Point as a Set with Glass Center (c. 1972)
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Introduced to sculpture through her studies with the Cubist master Alexander Archipenko in the 1930s and later teaching alongside the Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) in the 1940s, her work was informed by an astonishingly rich background. In 1950, Falkenstein moved to Paris, where she befriended such artists as Alberto Giacometti, Jean Arp, and Sam Francis, and where she became involved in a new intellectual movement that explored the nexus of art, science, and philosophy. When she returned to California in 1960, those investigations continued to be the basis of her work on such pieces, as illustrated in the two present lots.

Lot 55 Claire Falkenstein Point as a Set #27 (1976)
Lot 55, Claire Falkenstein, Point as a Set #27 (1976)
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

The Point as a Set sculpture series, which she began in her Los Angeles studio in the early 1960s, marked Falkenstein’s first self-assured steps into her mature artistic career. These sculptures vary in expression “from happy, open, curving lyricism to ominous, closed, hard-edged density,” Falkenstein wrote in an artist’s statement given to the Tate Gallery after the London museum acquired a work from the series in 1981. “Point as a Set refers to the language of mathematics, and thus to under-surface relations in nature.”

Anderson, Susan M., Michael Duncan, and Maren Henderson. Claire Falkenstein. Los Angeles: Falkenstein Foundation, 2012. Print. Alley, Ronald. Catalogue of the Tate Gallery’s Collection of Modern Art Other than Works by British Artists. London: Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, 1981. Web. 09 Jan. 2016.

Lot Information:

Lot 54
Claire Falkenstein
Large Point as a Set with Glass Center
c. 1972
Copper and fused Venetian glass
17″ diameter
Literature: Claire Falkenstein. M. Duncan, et al. 2012. 118 for a similar example illustrated.
Estimate: $25,000 – $35,000
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 55
Claire Falkenstein
Point as a Set #27
Impressed “CF”
6″ diameter
Together with copy of invoice from the original owner
Provenance: Private Collection, Palm Desert, California (gifted directly by the artist, 1977);
Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the above, 1999);
Private Collection, Los Angeles, California
Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

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