SPACE STRUCTURE, 1978 35 x 39 x 32 inches (click to enlarge)
Although she counted luminaries such as Clyfford Still and Jean Dubuffet among her associates, Claire Flakenstein (1908-97) has received little recognition. This show went a long way toward rectifying her omission from the art-historical pantheon, presenting 33 paintings and sculptures made between 1939 and 1981. Titled “An Expansive Universe,” it highlighted the artist’s network-oriented understanding of space and form, bringing to life a singular vision that was far ahead of its time.
Her diamond-shaped "White Painting" (1969) is nearly contemporaneous with Judy Chicago’s radial abstractions, but is ultimately more gestural, covered with interlocking swirls of small teardrop-shaped brushstrokes. As its title suggests, white predominates, but the color mostly functions as a screen over whorls of gold, silver, red, and blue. The canvas fairly shimmers, suggesting the presence of a deep, mysterious space just beyond the delicate scrim.
Screens are also a key component of Falkenstein’s sculptures, many constructed from thin metal rods welded together in stiff, organic webs or netlike forms. In a wall piece titled "Never Ending Screen" (ca. 1963), intersecting copper lines bend and dance in an allover rhythm that’s consistent but never quite becomes a pattern. Although its form is strictly rectangular, there is no actual frame, suggesting that the lines could extend infinitely. Similarly open-ended is "Space Structure" (1978), a flurry of silvery filigree wrapped around three large, intersecting triangles. A study in geometric tension, it almost feels space age, like a three-dimensional, interstellar map.
Developed over the middle decades of the last century, Falkenstein’s vision gave form to the concept of decentralized networks, now ubiquitous in our global society. With eerie prescience, she chartered an ever-expanding universe of connections.
"CLAIRE FALKENSTEIN: AN EXPANSIVE UNIVERSE"
Currently on View Through June 30
"RUTH WEISBERG: NOW & THEN"
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