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Art review: 'Claire Falkenstein' at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts

March 15, 2012 |  4:45 pm

Claire Falkenstein, "Values"
At Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, “Claire Falkenstein: An Expansive Universe” is a treasure trove of idiosyncratic gems by an artist who was once well known in the U.S. and Europe but is not currently thought of as an integral part of Los Angeles art history. That may change. In any case, don’t miss this opportunity to see 33 works Falkenstein (1908-1997) made from 1939 to 1981.

It’s a pleasure to discover her funky little collages on painted wood, jittery abstract gouaches and rock-solid clay sculptures, all made in San Francisco before she moved to Paris in 1950. Three pieces from her years in Paris stand out: a brass necklace that seems primitive and Egyptian; a dense little tumbleweed made of strands of copper and partially melted chunks of glass; and a 6-foot-long swirl of metal woven to resemble a space-age chrysalis.

In 1963, Falkenstein moved to California, where she settled into a beachfront studio in Venice and began working on many public commissions. She also made tiny sculptures that fused copper and glass, dot paintings that paid homage to Lee Mullican and elegant screen-like reliefs, all while experimenting with unlikely combinations of cast resin, Mylar and enamel.

Throughout the show, the sense of discovery is palpable. It matches the ethos of fearless experimentation that Falkenstein embraced as she hopscotched among media, finding surprises and laying the groundwork for such contemporary artists as Liz Larner and Pae White. Like Falkenstein, neither confines herself to a single medium and both are equally inspired by art, craft and design.

-- David Pagel

More art reviews from the Los Angeles Times 

Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, 357 N. La Brea Ave., (323) 938-5222, through April 28. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.jackrutbergfinearts.com

Image: Claire Falkenstein, "Values," 1945. Credit: Jack Rutberg Fine Arts.

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