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Dextra Frankel (Department of Art) papers

Identifier: UA-194-DF

Scope and Contents

The collection contains exhibition documentation for the CSUF Department of Visual Arts, College of the Arts for years 1967 - 1991. Each exhibition folder includes exhibition planning and promotion. There is correspondence between Frankel and other staff with artists, curators, the press and supporters. Samples of artworks/slides being considered for exhibitions, past exhibition announcements, catalogs, loan agreements, shipping information, press releases and targeted letters to the press and funders will typically be found in folders. On occasion research and drafts of writing for exhibition catalogs is included. Visitor logs, exhibition announcements and/or posters, published reviews, and some grant proposals are also included.

Scope and Contents

Dextra Frankel (1924-2016) was an artist and curator. She worked as a professor of art at CSUF in the area of Exhibition Design and curated significant exhibitions in art department galleries during her tenure. This collection is limited to Frankel’s exhibitions as well as those curated by exhibition design students as part of their degree program.


  • 1967 - 1991


Biographical / Historical

Dextra Frankel was the gallery director at California State Fullerton, University from 1967 to 1991. Previous to her career at the university she exhibited as a sculptor. In 1964, she was featured in one of the university’s first exhibitions: Four Women Artists, which included Elise Cavanaugh, Claire Falkenstein, and June Wayne. Jerry Samuelson curated the exhibition as the first art department gallery director. He became department chair when Frankel was hired, then Dean of the College of the Arts, a position he held during and after Frankel’s career at the university. Frankel’s organized projects made substantive contributions to art history and she developed an international reputation for innovative and meticulously designed exhibitions.

In 1970, she organized an outdoor installation/performance and

exhibition with Judy Gerowitz, who, in a ceremony at the gallery, changed her name to the name she is best known for today: Chicago.

Frankel organized one of eco-art movement pioneers Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison’s first exhibitions in 1972.

John McLaughlin had his first retrospective at the university and concurrently at Laguna Art Museum in 1975.

In 1983, she organized famed ceramicist and Mama of Dada Beatrice Woods’ first retrospective. She also curated early career surveys for ceramic sculptor Viola Frey; Betye Saar, known primarily for her assemblages, collages, and installations; and contemporary fiber art forerunner Lenore Tawney. One of her most notable group exhibitions was a survey of Ed and Melinda Wortz’ seminal California light and space collection.

Some of her most noted installations included Paint by Molly (1971), featuring hot rods and choppers painted by the Southern California designer and custom paint legend Roland Sanders; Santos: An Exhibition of Holy Images Predominantly from New Mexico, Mexico, and South America (1974); Itchiku Kubota: Kimono in the Tsujigahana Tradition (1980), the famed designer’s first exhibition in the United States; and The House that Art Built (1983), a group exhibition funded by a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant.

During her career at the university Frankel maintained an independent exhibition design firm and worked internationally. Her clients included Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA; Honolulu Academy of Art; Heard Museum; Phoenix; Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff; Marin Civic Center Exhibit Hall, San Rafael; Security Pacific National Bank, Los Angeles; Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles; The Albuquerque Museum, New Mexico; Union Bank History Museum, Los Angeles; Seiyu Gallery, Tokyo; California Afro-American Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History; California Museum of Science and Industry, Los Angeles; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; the Southwest Museum, Los Angeles; the Historic New Orleans Collection; Timken Museum of Art, San Diego; Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Some of her most notable projects were the exhibition for the post-1984 Los Angeles-hosted Olympics at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History; the North Carolina Museum of History, Sports Hall of Fame, which she worked on from 1990 to 1994; and Francis Ford Coppola’s Niebaum-Coppola Centennial Museum in Rutherford, California for which she was the designer and curator (1996-97).

Most recently, she was a consultant to Eli Broad during the planning of The Broad museum.

Frankel received numerous grants and awards during her career andpresented workshops, seminars and lectures, at dozens of institutions including Yale University; Anchorage Historical and Fine Arts Museum, Alaska; Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago; M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco; American Association of Museums conferences; Western Museum conferences; Universities of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles; University of Southern California; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Portland, Kimball, Seattle; Phoenix Art Museums; the Ford Foundation, New York City; The Art Museum Association of America (now American Federation of Arts); Colegio Official de Arquitectos de Andalucia Occidental, Sevilla, Spain; Kikutake Architect and Associates, Tokyo; Shoko Bijutsu Company Ltd., Tokyo; and Tokyo Designers, American Center, Tokyo, Japan.

From 1957 to 1978 she was Trustee for American Crafts Council, New York, and from 1979 to 1982 was Trustee for Western Association of Art Museums (WAAM, now the American Federation of Arts). In 1978, she received a NEA Museum Professional grant to investigate exhibition design in Japan and interview six of Japan’s leading designers and architects. She was awarded a second NEA Museum Professional grant in 1985 for travel in Europe. Through a grant from WAAM in 1979, she participated in the first Museum Management Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. She was a selection panelist for the NEA in 1986 and in 1995 was a member of the International Panel for exhibitions traveling abroad through the U.S. Information Agency/Arts America. In 1994, under the auspices of USIA/Arts America, she curated the exhibit Empowered Images, which opened in Barcelona, Spain, and traveled for four years to museums in Western and Eastern Europe. In 1996, through a grant from The Fund and Arts in America, she invited artist Lita Albuquerque to represent the United States in the Cairo Biennale 1996 with the exhibition Sol Star. There, Albuquerque produced a site installation on the Giza Plateau, along with a gallery installation. This project encompassed exhibition organization and administration and required interfacing with the American Embassy and Egyptian Government.

Dextra Frankel will be fondly remembered for her feisty spirit, visionary exhibitions, and significant contributions to California State University, Fullerton and California artists.

Source: CSUF Begovich Gallery Blog:


22 cartons

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Room 351B

Condition Description


Content Description

The collection is limited to Dextra Frankel's exhibitions as well as those curated by exhibition design students as part of their degree program. There may be accruals in the future of exhibition slides and digital files of the exhibtion slides.

Dextra Frankel papers
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Repository Details

Part of the CSUF University Archives & Special Collections Repository

University Archives & Special Collections
Pollak Library South Room 352 (PLS 352)
Fullerton CA 92831-3599 USA
(657) 278-4751