“Color-fornia” Textile Designs by Elza Sunderland

Art of the Americas Building, Level 3
November 24, 2011–March 25, 2012

Elza Sunderland, born in Hungary and educated in New York, was a leader of the burgeoning Los Angeles textile and apparel industry in the 1940s and 50s. Known nationally by the name “Elza of Hollywood,” Sunderland produced more than two thousand textiles over her nearly forty-year career.

The indoor/outdoor climate of California nurtured the development of new lightweight fabrics and Sunderland's whimsical designs were on trend with the growing popularity of colorful swimsuits and casual sportswear that was fashionable, yet practical. Swimwear companies Cole of California and Catalina frequently featured her textiles, and she worked with several California fashion designers to produce one-of-a kind prints for their exclusive creations.

Sunderland's textiles illustrated a wide variety of subjects: animals, abstract patterns, people, plants, and places. Uniting all of these was her bold and adventurous use of color, which she called “Color-fornia.” Although sometimes inspired by travel, Elza turned most frequently to her surroundings and mined the California landscape for colors and motifs.




Image: Textile Design, 1946, Guache on paper, Elza Sunderland Textile Design Collections, M.85.175.1414.