At USC FISHER GALLERY
Through April 18
As Julius Shulman looks back on pictures he took of downtown L.A. in 1970, Southern California's premier architectural photographer gets a bit nostalgic. “I was there when the city was a virgin,” he says, referring to a time when the ARCO towers were just steel frames and the newly cleared Bunker Hill was a vast lot of promise and architectural potential. “It was naked. This is the Los Angeles I knew.”
This month's USC Fisher Gallery exhibition of 85 works by Shulman, drawn almost exclusively from his private archive, is a testament to a photographic career that spans more than 60 years. At 87, Shulman continues to marvel at his own work and the Modernist architecture that inspired it. He's heartened by a current rebellion against what he calls “postmodernist, false-facade, stage-set architecture” and a resurgence of interest in an architecture that aspires to be part of the environment and integral to good living. “In our society, we've allowed so many transgressions in the name of progress and high-speed living,” he says. “Maybe we're finding salvation in modern architecture [as] something real, something with integrity. It's solid and disciplined, and it represents a common denominator.”
As he sits in his Laurel Canyon home office, designed by Case Study architect Raphael Soriano (the Case Study homes were a landmark SoCal Modernist architectural project sponsored by Art & Architecture magazine in 1945), the photographer pulls out poster-size prints of his work and analyzes them with the keen directness that has come to be known as the “Shulman eye.” According to Shulman, his 1959 picture of Pierre Koenig's Case Study House #22, an exterior view in which two women chat in a geometric glass-box sitting room suspended high over Hollywood, has been reproduced more times than images of the Acropolis. Good fortune in more ways than one, says Shulman. “We need to choose architecture that does something to your ego and your soul. We need to continue to spread the doctrine.”
Shulman will give a free lecture on Wednesday, March 18, at 6 p.m. in Harris Hall, Room 101.