The very best of the exhibition belongs to Modernist Donna Schuster. If there's any justice at all, Schuster should soon receive the kind of retro interest accorded her contemporaries Mabel Alvarez and Agnes Pelton. In the front room of the museum, her On the Beach wrests the attention from all the other paintings. Despite the hackneyed title—overused for all manner of Laguna scenes of gamboling children and post-nuclear attacks—the painting is as fresh and beautiful as a smile. It's a simple composition: a long-necked, wholesome redhead who looks like one of the original Coca-Cola ads sits on a bench on the beach, holding a vivid-blue Japanese parasol. She looks embarrassed to be the subject of so much attention. Los Angeles Harbor is an almost Fauvist scene of choppy, squiggly boats in blues and yellows. It's a strong-willed painting, big and bold. And Girl in the Mirror has the creaminess of a Renoir and the impasto of a Monet while foreshadowing the loneliness of a Hopper.
Oh, and by the way: all those painters I've cited as comparisons are men. I doubt you will ever see a contemporary man's paintings compared to works by Artemesia Gentileschi or Frida Kahlo. Bummer about the double standards. Lee Krasner would be spitting mad about now.
"A Woman's View" at the Irvine Museum, 18881 Von Karman, Irvine, (949) 476-2565. Open Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Through May 19.