July 20, 2009
by Canadian Architect
Palm Springs Modern: Photographs by Julius Shulman offers a tour of the mid-century architecture and elegant lifestyles of Palm Springs, California. The exhibition features almost 100 original photographs by renowned photographer Julius Shulman of iconic designs by Modernist architects. Also presented are a dozen original drawings, including renderings of the famed Kaufmann House designed by architect Richard Neutra as a winter residence for the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh.
Shulman’s photographs will be on display at the Heinz Architectural Center at the Carnegie Museum of Art from September 19, 2009 to January 31, 2010. The exhibition focuses on Shulman’s encyclopedic documentation of progressive architecture in the Palm Springs area, from his first photographs of Richard Neutra’s Miller House in 1937 to images of John Lautner’s Elrod House taken in 2007. It honours this remarkable photographer who died on July 15, 2009 at the age of 98.
Visitors to Palm Springs Modern will see both black-and-white and colour photographs – many never previously shown – of structures by architects such as William Cody, Albert Frey, A. Quincy Jones, William Krisel, John Lautner, Richard Neutra, Dan Palmer, Donald Wexler, Paul Williams, and E. Stewart Williams. Each section of the exhibition will offer biographical information on the architects and present a historical context for their work. There is also a 20-minute documentary with commentary by Shulman, exhibition curator Michael Stern, and architectural historian Alan Hess.
“Palm Springs is almost unique in America,” said Raymund Ryan, architecture curator at the Heinz Architectural Center. “For decades it served as a stylish laboratory for architects whose buildings are now being re-examined. This new appreciation is in large part due to the dissemination of Shulman’s striking and evocative images.”
By the 1930s, Palm Springs had become a desert resort for both Angelenos and Americans from colder regions of the country. Architects trained in the Modern Movement found patrons in this warm oasis to build vanguard structures, mostly houses but also country clubs and small civic buildings. Several clients were Hollywood stars such as Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, and Bob Hope. Palm Springs embraced Modernism as few other towns in the United States, due in part to its climate, to its resort status, and to the aspirations of clients and designers. One of the largest houses in the exhibition, Sunnylands, designed by A. Quincy Jones for the Annenberg family, will soon open to visitors; a visitor centre currently under construction has been designed by Los Angeles architect Frederick Fisher.
Born in 1910 and active up until his recent death, Shulman was responsible for many of the seminal photographs of Southern Californian architecture, including those of the Case Study House program, which encouraged the building of model homes in response to the residential housing boom in Southern California. This exhibition tracks seven decades of Shulman’s photographic work in the desert. “No one was better able to depict the evolution of modern architecture than Julius Shulman,” said Raymund Ryan. “Through his masterful techniques with light and attention to detail, Shulman captured moments in history that turned buildings into icons.”
Shulman began his career by photographing Richard Neutra’s work in the 1930s. Neutra realized three key projects in the Palm Springs area: the Miller, Kaufmann and Maslon Houses. Although Neutra’s Maslon House was tragically demolished in 2002, his Kaufmann House has been painstakingly restored. This house was built between 1946 and 1947 as a winter vacation home and is considered one of the most glamorous houses of the century. The fascinating story of Edgar J. Kaufmann, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Pittsburgh was recounted in the exhibition Merchant Prince and Master Building at the Heinz Architectural Center in 1999.
PalmSpringsModern: Photographs by Julius Shulman was organized by the Palm Springs Art Museum and curated by Michael Stern. It is accompanied by the book Julius Shulman: Palm Springs, published by Rizzoli.
For more information, please visit www.cmoa.org/info/heinz.asp.