|A California sculptor extraordinaire who never fit neatly into a style or artistic label, Claire Falkenstein continues to defy the artistic norm in a comprehensive exhibition of her exquisite jewelry. Passionate, argumentative and never willing to take no for an answer, Falkenstein single handedly carved out a career for herself in an era where male artists dominated and set the styles. Finally, seven years after her death, Falkenstein is recognized for just one of the rich facets of her incredible career. Known for her forged metal sculpture that encompassed her never-ending screens of spatial delineations, including her magnificent gates for Peggy Guggenheims Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in Venice, Italy, Falkenstein also worked in ceramics, prints, stained glass windows and jewelry. Held in a setting uniquely sympathetic to Falkensteins art, with her luminous fountain Structure and Flow and the dynamic sculpture Point as a Set #16 in the Museums sculpture garden, this exhibition presents jewelry executed from 1945 to 1980.
Falkenstein blended numerous influences and sources to create jewelry that was uniquely her own, calling to mind the beaten gold of the Assyrian civilization, the luminous glass jewelry of the Romans, the delicate organic curves of Art Nouveau, and the linear structure of Alexander Calders mobiles. However, the fantastic mysteries and images of the natural universe, as in her large-scale sculpture, remained her primary source of inspiration. In the early fifties, Falkenstein created her jewelry in a tiny Paris apartment, blending all her techniques of metal casting to create a series of unique pieces which laid the foundation for her prolific output, including hatpins, buttons, earrings, cufflinks, body jewelry, rings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, belt buckles and brooches.
Delicate and linear, curved and knotted, Falkensteins forged jewelry echoed her inventive and wide array of abstract imagery. Body Chain is created with brass wires anchored by a huge quartz geode, and is futuristic in the extreme, functioning additionally both as sculpture and as a beautiful, unusual corset. Her fusing of glass and gold is astonishing in a necklace for Lena Hansen, with its asymmetrical curvilinear design, balanced by the pendant of Venetian glass wrapped in gold. This fluid design could function equally well as jewelry or a modernistic mobile.
Body Chain, ca. 1971-72, brass
and quartz geode, 16 x 12 x 8.
brooch, 4 7/8 x 1 1/8".
"Hair Ornament," brass
and aluminum, 4 x 1".
"Ring," silver and nickel, 2 x 1 x 1".