California Women Modernists
At the Forefront of American Modernism

June 4, 2005 – October 29, 2005 (extended)

Public Reception: June 11, 2005, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

9200 West Olympic Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 273-8838, fax (310) 273-8848
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Gallery hours, Tuesday – Saturday, 11am-6pm

Spencer Jon Helfen Fine Arts is proud to present the most important and extensive survey of art by California Women Modernists of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s since the seminal 1995 museum exhibition: Independent Spirits -- Women Painters of the American West, 1890 – 1945.

This exhibition will feature some of California’s foremost artists of the period, including San Francisco Bay Area artists Dorr Bothwell, Margaret Bruton, Helen Forbes, Edith Hamlin and Henrietta Shore; Los Angeles artists Mabel Alvarez, Grace Clements, Helen Lundeberg, Agnes Pelton (Palm Springs) and Elise Seeds; San Diego artists Belle Baranceanu and Ruth Powers Ortlieb; and many others.

(l.) Dorr Bothwell, Figures in a Landscape, 1927, oil on canvas board, 20 x 16 inches.
(r.) Margaret Bruton, Main Street - Gold Hill, ca. 1935, watercolor and graphite on paper, 19.75 x 24.25 inches.

Dorr Bothwell was an independent person whose brief marriage to sculptor Donal Hord is said to have ended because he refused to assist with household chores.  Bothwell traveled widely, and in 1927-28 was in Samoa and likely influenced by the beauty of the terrain when she painted the colorful and well-composed Figures in a Landscape. Margaret Bruton, a student of Robert Henri in New York and also widely traveled, created stunning paintings of ghost towns resulting from a 1933 trip to Nevada, as evidenced in her Main Street – Gold Hill.  Helen Forbes, who studied for a time with André Lhote in Paris, created portraits with simplicity, honesty and careful attention to detail, as in her ca. 1930 painting Portrait, revealing a woman in careful contemplation of a book.  Henrietta Shore, also a pupil of Robert Henri, began her Modernist career in Los Angeles, and moved to Carmel in 1930.  Her magnificent, sensual still lifes, exemplified by the stunning ca. 1930 Floral Still Life, served as inspiration for the photographic work of her friend Edward Weston.

(l.) Mabel Alvarez, Untitled (Adoration), ca. 1925, oil on canvas, 34 x 38 inches.
(r.) Agnes Pelton, Voyaging, 1931, oil on canvas, 36 x 22 inches.

The early Symbolist work of Los Angeles artist Mabel Alvarez is represented by the never before seen ca. 1925 Untitled (Adoration), a work that captures the artist’s newly developed interest in Modernist technique and Theosophy.  Helen Lundeberg, a co-founder of the Post-Surrealist movement, painted the tantalizing The Canyon for the Federal Art Project, one of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs intended to provide work for artists during the Great Depression.  Agnes Pelton created the transcendentalist painting Voyage in 1931, the year she moved from New York to the West Coast.  The painting makes reference to her new home in its inclusion of a bell, symbolic of the California missions.  Elise Seeds, another of Los Angeles’ early moderns, who stood six feet tall and sported purple hair, was an early exponent of Abstraction, and Jitterbugs is a seminal example of the artist’s oeuvre.
Modernism also took hold early in San Diego with such artists as Belle Baranceanu, Ruth Powers Ortlieb and others.  Like many California Modernists, Baranceanu was not a native of the state.  She hailed from Chicago.  Her ca. 1930 The Steeple, Hollywood, reflects her characteristic use of deep greens, blues and grays and her ability to reduce forms to their sensory essence.  Ortlieb, a student of Millard Sheets, applied her skills to create wonderful Art Deco and California Regionalist artworks, including Figure With Horse, a whimsical homage to the Art Deco aesthetic.

(l.) Edna Reindel, Victorian Essay,1932, oil on canvas, 21 x 20 inches.
(r.) Helen Clark Oldfield, Brown Bowl, 1937, oil on canvas, 22 x 18 inches.      
The exhibition features many other California Women Modernists, and includes oil paintings, watercolors, graphite drawings, woodblock prints, lithographs and sculpture.

The Gallery specializes in California Modernism of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and is one of the only galleries to undertake large-scale exhibitions featuring the important art and artists of the Modernist period in California.  

The Gallery is located at 9200 West Olympic Boulevard, Suite 200, in Beverly Hills, at the southwest corner of Palm Drive, between Beverly Drive and Doheny.

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