San Francisco

Karl Kasten and Claire Falkenstein

Hollis Gallery

The experimental attitude among artists which has turned many painters to sculpture, and has induced many sculptors to paint or color their surfaces, has also extended itself to graphics. The Hollis Gallery is exhibiting just such a show of experimental prints by Karl Kasten, a painter, and Claire Falkenstein, a sculptor. Kasten has made collages which he inks and then runs as a master, through the press. He has made these printable collages of objects with a slightly raised character, flat in the main, but having some thickness, as metal, cardboard or plastic, rather than paper. (Two of these printable collages hang in this exhibition opposite their graphic images.) The graphics are called “collographs.” The printing is achieved with heavy mats which sandwich the paper as it is pressed and give the print a relief quality as well as printing the ink of the raised edges and surfaces. This matted printing process, well-known in traditional stone lithography, has allowed Kasten to use relatively fragile materials, such as a fragment of a phonograph record. The process also prints with remarkable fidelity such surface detail as the grain of fir plywood—an effect that the 19th-century wood block artists of Japan achieved only by hand rubbing of the paper on an inked block. All of the colors are applied to the master collage for a single run; thus they are monoprints and the matter of accurate registration of each color, which is a problem in practically all other color reproduction, is avoided; the color combinations can change with each print. If a transparent ink is run a second time, the effect is to mute the first run. This was done in a few copies of a Nightfall print in which the sun is represented by a tin can lid, and another lid, folded, represents the set sun. Kasten always uses trash, and it definitely looks like familiar trash in the print, but the purely abstract use of color—never expressive color, but arbitrarily selected for harmonic purposes—transforms the trash into a very elegant and decorative print. To make the ugly beautiful is a step toward making the trivial profound, and it was inevitable that the artist would join the psychologists and mystics in this endeavor. It is just this sort of transformation which informs the process. Trying to give expressive mood to familiar objects is another traditional objective which has been jettisoned in the new experiments.

Claire Falkenstein translates energy into an almost diagrammatic form. Her sculpture is a bramble of wires tangled in a way similar to Pollock’s swift paint-dripping process, and her graphic work is very much a translation of this action into the two-dimensional. Some of her prints in this exhibition are more or less conventional in technique, but in others an experimental factor is introduced, as when a tangled arabesque of wires, such as she might mount on a pedestal as sculpture, is compressed flat and run through the press with the paper. The result is a molded paper bas-relief of the wire. A second step is to ink the wire and print it, both as an ink line and as a raised impression. In another print she has combined a soft cardboard indented print with an aluminum plate mounted in the center, but with the wire impression raised. And in the ultimate example metallic sheets have been imprinted with the wire impression. Some of the wires are recognizable relics of a former function, such as bed springs. They are compressed as they would be in a bed, creating an illusion of spatial tension without the elements of perspective or illusory drawing techniques. Really, then, not an illusion but a record of the actual action.

Knute Stiles