Topology: Objects and Space

Works from the Collection of Louis Leithold

Throughout her career, Claire Falkenstein explored an interest in mathematics, cosmology and molecular structure that manifested in her artistic output. Concerned with the properties of three-dimensional objects and how they interact with the space around them, Falkenstein adopted the mathematical principle of Topology in her sculptural practice. By definition, the term describes “the study of geometric properties and spatial relations unaffected by the continuous change of shape or size of figures”. In practice, Falkenstein utilized the principle by developing a sculptural element deemed the “Never Ending Screen”, a complex network of lines (drawn, or rendered three-dimensionally) which appear to spread and continuously flow throughout space. Like nerve cells, or a topological network, the results are infinite.

The cover for Louis Leithold's 1978 work featuring a sculpture by Claire Falkenstein.

Given her interest in various mathematical and scientific fields, it is fitting that Falkenstein would associate with prominent intellectuals. One such individual, Louis Leithold, authored The Calculus, a benchmark textbook responsible for changing the teaching methods for calculus around the world. A fellow Californian, Leithold held multiple university positions throughout his career, although he is probably best known for his lively methods as an AP Calculus teacher at Malibu High School. In 1978, Leithold published Essentials of Calculus for Business and Economics. For the cover, he selected a sculpture by Falkenstein that illustrated her topographical explorations—a mass of twisting planes, folding and flowing through space. Although not much is known that speaks to the extent of their relationship, Leithold was a patron of Falkenstein and commissioned the artist to create multiple artworks for his home, including a Never Ending Screen. The works presented here come from Leithold’s collection and represent a dynamic intersection of mathematics and sculpture, objects and space.