More than 70 works by the photographer Julius Shulman, known as one of the most important chroniclers of American modernist architecture are on display. His iconic images of Southern California in the 1940s and 1950s—from the sleek lines of Richard Neutra’s Los Angeles and Palm Springs residences to the streamlined profiles of gas stations and movie theater—are only one part of this wide exhibition. Culled from the Shulman archives recently given to the Getty Research Institute and first shown at the Getty late in 2005, the photographs in Julius Shulman: Modernity and the Metropolis encompass Shulman’s career, from his early works in the 1930s up through the 1990s.
The exhibition is divided into four sections. “Framing the California Lifestyle” and “Promoting the Power of Modern Architecture” display works that capture the evolution of modern architecture. Included are photographs commissioned by visionaries such as Richard Neutra, Rudolph Shindler, and John Lautner, as well as selections from Shulman’s extensive portfolio of 18 of the 26 California Case Study Houses for John Entenza’s Arts & Architecture magazine, a project in which architects were challenged to design single-family homes. “Development of a Metropolis” features Shulman’s photographs of 20th-century Los Angeles, including lesser-known images of gas stations, movie palaces, and bustling markets; here the highly aesthetic and yet also documentary images reveal Los Angeles as a city searching for its character. “The Tools of an Innovator,” the final section of the exhibition, presents a self-portrait of Shulman through his presentations of the tools of his trade-the photographic equipment that shaped his career.