Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Langson IMCA Presents New Exhibition BRUTON SISTERS: MODERNISM IN THE MAKING

This is the first group exhibition of the Bruton sisters' work in more than 50 years.

Langson IMCA Presents New Exhibition BRUTON SISTERS: MODERNISM IN THE MAKING

UCI Jack and Shanaz Langson Institute and Museum of California Art (Langson IMCA) is presenting The Bruton Sisters: Modernism in the Making, a new exhibition organized by guest curator Wendy Van Wyck Good.

An author, librarian, archivist, and historian, Good is the leading expert on Margaret, Esther, and Helen Bruton-pioneering artists who propelled the advancement of modern art in California. The presentation, which includes related works by several of their contemporaries, reveals the Bruton sisters' innovative use of materials, creative approach to design, and fruitful collaborative process. This is the first group exhibition of the Bruton sisters' work in more than 50 years.

The exhibition will be on view February 4 through May 6, 2023 in Langson IMCA's interim museum space at 18881 Von Karman Avenue. It features 18 works from Langson IMCA's permanent collection as well as several loans from private collections and the Monterey Museum of Art. A trove of archival materials-much of which is on public display for the first time-also reveals how the Bruton sisters integrated art, craft, and design into their everyday lives.

Active from the 1920s through the 1960s, the prolific Brutons embraced a modernist aesthetic that moved toward abstraction and experimented with new techniques and styles. Highly regarded by their contemporaries in the California art scene, the siblings also engaged with prominent luminaries of their generation, including Ansel Adams, Maynard Dixon, Armin Hansen, Frida Kahlo, Henri Matisse, and Diego Rivera. They were also lifelong friends with renowned California photographer Imogen Cunningham whose work captures intimate moments in the sisters' homes and studios, as seen in the exhibition.

Each sister forged a distinctive artistic path by pushing the boundaries of her chosen medium. Margaret (1894-1983) achieved success as a modernist painter and watercolorist but pivoted to creating abstraction in terrazzo in the 1940s. Esther (1896-1992), who originally trained as a commercial artist at the Parsons School of Design in New York, focused on decorative arts. She was also in high demand for murals commissioned for commercial and civic buildings. Initially schooled as a sculptor, Helen (1898-1985) created mosaics for the Works Progress Administration and explored the medium using different styles, methods, and materials for the rest of her career.

While developing their individual practices, the sisters assisted one another with their respective projects. In 1935, for example, Esther designed a series of circus-themed murals for the Cirque Room at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and executed the work's laborious application of gold leaf with the help of Margaret. One of Esther's most widely acclaimed projects, the murals are still on view at the hotel today. The Brutons also collaborated on large-scale public art commissions, most notably, their monumental mural, The Peacemakers, for San Francisco's Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939, which was demolished after the fair closed.

Good said, "These rarely exhibited paintings, prints, mosaics, and terrazzos-displayed alongside works by several of their Californian contemporaries-vibrantly demonstrate the sisters' impact on the development of California Modernism. A culmination of my research resulting in Sisters in Art, the first biography of the trio published by West Margin Press last year, The Bruton Sisters will tell their stories through the objects they created, their artistic investigations, and aesthetic intersections."

Langson IMCA Museum Director Kim Kanatani said, "We are honored to be working with Wendy Van Wyck Good on this important exhibition of work by three dynamic artists. Thanks to Wendy's extensive research and deep interest in these previously overlooked women artists, we continue to fulfill key aspects of Langson IMCA's mission-to meaningfully engage with our visitors and contribute new scholarship on California Art to the larger community."

The exhibition also features a digitized family album of photographs that follow the Brutons' travels throughout Europe and the western U.S. from 1923 to 1933. The locations they visited inspired many of the works on view, such as Margaret's painting Virginia City (ca. 1932), Esther's folding screen Rabbit Hunt (1929), and Helen's etching The Party (ca. 1925). The Bruton Sisters: Their Lives and Careers, an eight-minute film developed for the exhibition, will be shown in the gallery to provide insight into the artists' biographies and site-specific public works.

Related public programs will be announced in early 2023.

After its presentation at Langson IMCA, The Bruton Sisters will be on view at the Monterey Museum of Art in spring/summer 2023.



Wagner Ensemble Presents THE SLAVE LETTERS By Michal Dawson Connor Photo
The Wagner Ensemble, under the direction of Jeannine Wagner, presents 'The Slave Letters' by Michal Dawson Connor. 'The Slave Letters' is a multimedia performance featuring readings of authentic slave letters by Connor, spirituals sung by the Wagner Ensemble, and video image projections. The Wagner Ensemble will be accompanied by pianist Robert Blake.

Beyoncé Adds New Renaissance Tour Dates Photo
After the wildly successful announcement, Beyoncé has added several new tour dates to her RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR, her first solo tour in over six years, in Chicago, IL; East Rutherford, NJ; Washington, DC; Atlanta, GA; Inglewood, CA; and Houston, TX. Check out a complete list of tour dates now!

Review: INCIDENT AT OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP at Theatre Forty Photo
After spending 90 minutes with the O’Shea family, we can thank whatever gods we pray to that we A. did not grow up in the early 1970s, B. that we do have the Internet and C. that this loving but dysfunctional family is not our own.

The Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Academy Spring Session Begins Next Week Photo
Enrollment ends on February 4 for the 2023 spring session of The Blank Theatre's Young Playwrights Academy (YPA). All classes, which begin on February 6 and run through April 12, are conducted live online.


More Hot Stories For You


Wagner Ensemble Presents THE SLAVE LETTERS By Michal Dawson ConnorWagner Ensemble Presents THE SLAVE LETTERS By Michal Dawson Connor
February 3, 2023

The Wagner Ensemble, under the direction of Jeannine Wagner, presents 'The Slave Letters' by Michal Dawson Connor. 'The Slave Letters' is a multimedia performance featuring readings of authentic slave letters by Connor, spirituals sung by the Wagner Ensemble, and video image projections. The Wagner Ensemble will be accompanied by pianist Robert Blake.

The Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Academy Spring Session Begins Next WeekThe Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Academy Spring Session Begins Next Week
February 3, 2023

Enrollment ends on February 4 for the 2023 spring session of The Blank Theatre's Young Playwrights Academy (YPA). All classes, which begin on February 6 and run through April 12, are conducted live online.

Filharmonie Brno Performs an All-Czech Program With Dvořák, Janáček, and MartinůFilharmonie Brno Performs an All-Czech Program With Dvořák, Janáček, and Martinů
February 3, 2023

The pastoral landscape and folklore of Eastern Europe and America are brought to life through the music of three of the greatest Czech composers – Dvořák, Janáček, and Martinů – performed by the Czech Republic’s own Filharmonie Brno under the baton of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Dennis Russell Davies.

Cal Performances at UC Berkeley Presents the U.S. Premiere of SIBYLCal Performances at UC Berkeley Presents the U.S. Premiere of SIBYL
February 3, 2023

As part of its Illuminations series, which this season addresses the complex and changing relationship between technology and creative expression, Cal Performances at UC Berkeley presents the eagerly anticipated U.S. premiere of William Kentridge’s hit multi-disciplinary theatrical production SIBYL, a meditation on the ultimately unknowable nature of the future (March 17–19)

Pageant of the Masters Honors Harlem Renaissance in Upcoming Production, ART COLONY: IN THE COMPANY OF ARTISTSPageant of the Masters Honors Harlem Renaissance in Upcoming Production, ART COLONY: IN THE COMPANY OF ARTISTS
February 2, 2023

This summer, the Pageant of the Masters celebrates 90 years of tableaux vivants (“living pictures”) with the production Art Colony: In the Company of Artists. Audiences can expect a diverse theatrical celebration of artists from around the world that have embraced communities where they could live and work, and take inspiration from one another. One of the art colonies featured in this year's Pageant is New York's Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement that celebrated art and African American culture in the 1920s and 30s.