Laband Art Gallery

Loyola Marymount University

Los Angeles, CA



Mabel Alvarez (1891-1985): A Retrospective


"Mabel Alvarez (1891-1985): A Retrospective" will be on display at Loyola Marymount University's Laband Art Gallery. The exhibition opens on March 11 and runs through April 10, 1999. It is curated by Will South, Ph.D, Research Curator at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

Mabel Alvarez was born in Hawaii into a family who distinguished themselves in medical and scientific pursuits. Her interests, however, were in art and spirituality. Moving to Los Angeles in 1908, Alvarez excelled in her high school art classes and after her graduation had a notable early career in architectural decoration. In 1914 she was commissioned to work on the murals for the San Diego Panama-California Exposition, where she employed Art Nouveau and Symbolist styles.

Her career after 1916 was marked by an embrace of Theosophy,[1] an early 20th century blend of world religions and the occult, and a lifelong quest for new artistic directions. By turn, she absorbed California Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Spiritualist dreamscapes, 1930's Moderne, and in the late 1930s through 1950s she settled into a kind of broad figuration reminiscent of New York's Raphael Soyer. During the 1950s and 60s Alvarez's palette loosened up even more and her compositions simplified, owing to her interest in Henri Matisse and Edgar Degas.

According to curator Will South, "Mabel Alvarez was definitely 'In the mix' of Southern California modernism from 1915 through the 1950s." She was active with the landscape-oriented California Art Club for most of her life, but also was involved during the 1920s in the local Modern Art Society, the California Progressive Group, the Group of Eight and the Modern Art Workers. Fellow artists with whom she had dialogue included Stanton Macdonald Wright, Conrad Buff II and Morgan Russell.

"Mabel AIvarez (1891-1985): A Retrospective" and its illustrated catalogue are produced in collaboration with the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach. OCMA will host the exhibition from May 1 to July 18, 1999.

From top to bottom: Mabel Alvarez, c. 1915; Self Portrait, 1923, oil on canvas, 23 3/8 x 19 1/2 inches; Dream of Youth, 1925, oil on canvas, 58 x 50 1/4 inches, The Artist in Her Studio, , c. 1945, oil on canvas, 36 x 30 inches.

Editor's note: see the article Theosophy and Symbolist Art: The Point Loma Art School by Bruce Kamerling for an explanation of Theosophy.

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rev. 4/24/05

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