"Julius Shulman: Modernity and the Metropolis" at

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"Julius Shulman: Modernity and the Metropolis" at

Postby scowsa » Thu Nov 10, 2005 5:49 pm

Pasting this in from WSJ, as you cannot link to it.

His Photos of Houses Invite Us In

November 9, 2005; Page D16

Los Angeles

If you can recall just one architectural photo of a home, this one may be it: It's 1960. Two young women sit inside a glass-walled house that is daringly suspended over the Hollywood Hills, the lights of L.A. glittering for miles below them. You're peering in (along with the photographer) from the terrace through the transparent walls. Globular chandeliers illuminate streamlined furniture, and you just know the women are listening to Chet Baker on the hi-fi, waiting expectantly for the moment when their artsy friends will show up for what will be an effortlessly glamorous evening.

Julius Shulman was the photographer for the modernist architects, and he helped shape our image of the California lifestyle. The photgraph in question is Pierre Koenig's 'Case Study House #22.'

The reality of the California lifestyle or not, there's no denying that our picture of that super-fabulous period when modern design combined with California ethics and aesthetics to produce the epitome of gracious midcentury living can largely be traced to pictures. And most of those pictures, including the iconic one of Pierre Koenig's "Case Study House #22," were taken by Julius Shulman, photographer to the West Coast architectural stars for more than half a century.

Though less well-known than the architects he worked for, Mr. Shulman is a star in his own right. This fact is on ample display through Jan. 22, 2006, at the Getty Research Institute at the Getty Center. "Julius Shulman: Modernity and the Metropolis" marks both the photographer's 95th birthday and the Getty's acquisition of his massive photographic archive (70,000 negatives, 35,000 vintage prints) with a show of 83 mostly 8-by-10, mostly black-and-white, entirely wonderful images.

The exhibit is an introduction to the man and his career designed to let the public know that his catalog of California modernism is ready for its research projects into, say, the midcentury kitchen or for the restoration of a specific house by Richard Neutra, the Austrian immigrant architect whose dwellings modernist-minded Angelenos now most covet. But the fact that the exhibit and archive are at the Research Institute, so as to better serve the wider world, instead of the Getty Museum, the province of the art world, should not deter lovers of art photographs, who will admire the images as much as the buildings they capture and preserve.

Those buildings include homes and offices by Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, John Lautner, Raphael Soriano, Charles and Ray Eames and Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as mod gas stations and diners and, uncharacteristically, the slums of Chavez Ravine (where Neutra-designed public housing was to rise but never did).

Mr. Shulman's career owes much to the fact that, in 1936, he was in the right place at the right time. A young man with seven college years under his belt but no direction to his life, he met through his sister an assistant of Neutra's who took him along to see the architect's Kun House in the Hollywood Hills. An amateur photographer, he took his Kodak Vest Pocket camera along, photographed the house, sent the photos to Neutra -- and the rest is the history of a man who stumbled into his calling. Before long, he was working for all the pioneers of California's modernist movement as well as "House and Garden."

Mr. Shulman -- who still lives in a Hollywood Hills house designed for him in 1950 by Soriano (a pioneer of modular prefab steel and aluminum for residential use) and, at 95, still works -- has no doubt placed his archive exactly where he thinks it belongs. In his 1962 guide to "Photographing Architecture and Interiors" (still enthusiastically used by students today), he writes that a photographer "must be prepared to subjugate his photograph to the design," while admitting that with a good photographer "there will evolve a freedom and creativity of expression that will make the photograph a work of art in its own right."

Or as Neutra explained in that same book: "My beloved late Edward Weston...was no architectural photographer! Innocently he fell in love with stunning cracks in buckly plaster. His wonderful photos could have served as evidence in court against a plastering contractor. Architectural photography is an applied art. Architectural photographers like Julius Shulman apply themselves to the art of the befriended architect."

This is true. And yet only an artist can convert a three-dimensional space to two dimensions and make us feel the space, translating its aura to paper and inviting us to enter. In "Kaufmann House, Palm Springs, 1947," for example, the appeal can be attributed as much to the lighting as to the architecture of Neutra's modular, low-ceilinged, sleek abode, as Shulman directs the eye toward a lone figure reclining by the swimming pool at twilight, then into the invitingly lighted glass-walled house where every meticulous detail is discernible, and on to the horizon as the sun slips behind nearby mountains. You don't just learn from the image that the architect designed this house for seamless indoor-outdoor living, you long for a dip in the pool and a martini in the den. The fact that it was a "complex multiple exposure" later tweaked in the darkroom only makes it all the more photographically impressive.

There's no deceit here, no artfulness, but there is enhancement. Mr. Shulman made these at-the-time-shocking houses attractive to a larger audience by imbuing what was often seen as harsh and cold design with warmth and sensuousness. And he made them accessible. Nowadays, it's tough to find one of these modern masterpieces that's open to the public. The still-somewhat-shocking 1922 Schindler House off Melrose, considered the birthplace of Southern California modernism, is an exception, its boxy interior of unfinished concrete walls and canvas doors hinting at the challenges Mr. Shulman sometimes faced.

But it's now easy to access Mr. Shulman's own contribution to California modern architecture -- and it's the one place where every house is seen in its best light.

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Postby losfeliz » Fri Nov 11, 2005 1:49 pm

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