California’s Designing Women: 1896 – 1986

August 28, 2012

A MUSUEM OF CALIFORNIA DESIGN exhibition at The Autry National Center

Curated by Bill Stern
Executive Director, Museum of California Design

August 10, 2012 through January 6, 2013

This unprecedented exhibition focuses on the work of 46 of the many exceptional women who, working state-wide from San Francisco to San Diego, helped make California a preeminent center of American commercial design and fine craft. Among them are: Esther Bruton, Edith Heath, Dorothy Thorpe, Gertrud Natzler, Beatrice Wood, Ray Eames, Marilyn Kay Austin, Jade Snow Wong, Gere Kavanaugh, Deborah Sussman, Judith Hendler and April Greiman.

Maria Kipp, textile samples: cotton, rayon, linen, Made by Maria Kipp, Los Angeles., circa 1938, Collection of Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA), Photo: Steve Aldana.

The combination of California’s climate of innovation, freedom from restrictive traditions and a highly competitive business climate provided creative and business opportunities for women designers which probably would not have been available to them elsewhere. In California they helped transform the stereotypically female vocation of decorative arts into the gender-neutral realm of design with its frequent ties to industrial production and commerce.

Muriel Coleman, chest on bench, armchair, desk, child’s chair (made for Coleman’s 4-year-old son), room-divider/shelf unit, hat-coat-and-scarf rack. Manufactured by California Contemporary, Inc. (San Leandro, CA), c. 1951.
Photo: Steve Aldana.

The utilitarian and decorative objects in this exhibition reflect developments in an array of technologies from hand-cut wood block prints to computer-aided graphics and in materials from wood, metal, clay, paper, cloth and enamel to fiberglass and acrylics and in all the major aesthetic movements of the 20th century, from Art Nouveau to Mid-century Modern and beyond.

Margit Fellegi Scandal Suit Bathing suit Nylon knit jersey 1965 Collection Cole of California (Los Angeles, California) Los Angeles County Museum of Art Photograph © 2011 Museum Associates/LACMA
Margit Fellegi, Scandal Suit, Bathing suit Nylon knit jersey, 1965, Collection Cole of California (Los Angeles, California), Los Angeles County Museum of Art,Photograph © 2011 Museum Associates/LACMA

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