February 21, 2016


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Lot 55: Claire Falkenstein

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
Price Realized: $11,875
Inventory Id: 21054

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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.

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.

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.