Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Case studies

December 23, 2007|David L. Ulin

JULIUS SHULMAN is Los Angeles. Now 97, the photographer moved here in 1920 and has documented the city's architecture since the mid-1930s, when he first began to get commissions from Richard Neutra. With its nighttime backdrop of the L.A. Basin, Shulman's "Case Study House No. 22" (1960) is one of the most identifiable pictures of Southern California, a metaphor in silver nitrate of this place as streamlined Eden, in which history is eclipsed beneath the glittering edges and smooth angles of Pierre Koenig's contemporary steel and glass.

"Julius Shulman: Modernism Rediscovered" (Taschen: three volumes, boxed, 1,008 pp., $300), edited by Benedikt Taschen, is a retrospective drawn from Shulman's archives, gathering work from 1939 to 1981 and featuring more than 400 buildings, including homes, schools and gems such as the Crenshaw Theater, a Deco dream that Shulman photographed in 1941. What's interesting about the project is that it both supports and enlarges our sense of Shulman's vision, offering an expansive take on Southern California while also venturing beyond the region, to Sacramento, Washington state, Oklahoma, even Brazil.

It's de rigueur, I suppose, that "Julius Shulman: Modernism Rediscovered" would have a textual apparatus: an introduction by Owen Edwards, a biographical sketch by Philip J. Ethington. Yet in the end, these contributions -- especially Hunter Drohojowska-Philp's disappointing oral history -- are almost entirely beside the point. Equally problematic is the publisher's insistence on reproducing all the writing in English, German and French, which can get confusing, to say the least.

That's OK, though, because we don't come to a work like this for the words but for the images, which remain as profound as they ever were. As an overview of Shulman's career, and by extension the history of 20th century Los Angeles, "Julius Shulman: Modernism Rediscovered" is unmatched.

-- David L. Ulin

david.ulin@latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|