Southern California Swimming Pools: 1945-1982

Swimming PoolAnyone who’s taken a plane flight over LA knows that its landscape isn’t marked by rivers, crop fields, or cows. Rather, it’s distinguished by an inordinate number of swimming pools, collectively forming an iconic staple of SoCal living that’s been explored by David Hockney, Herb Ritts, and countless other artists who have been inspired by the region’s so-called “backyard oasis.” More than any other medium, though, photography captures the swimming pool’s distinctive features, like the characteristically glistening, unpredictable play of light and shadow — not to mention the backyard barbecues, poolside parties, and moments of quiet reflection on the shores of man-made watering holes across greater Los Angeles.

In conjunction with the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time initiative, the Palm Springs Art Museum presents a comprehensive visual survey of swimming-pool photography: Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982, featuring more than a hundred archival images of swimming-pool design and culture. Curated by the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Deputy Director of Art, Daniell Cornell, the exhibition is thematically divided into five categories: California Architecture and Design, Hollywood and Celebrity Culture, the Shape of Desire and Dreams, the Utopian-Dystopian Topos of Suburbia, and the Pacific Ocean as Context. And for anyone who won’t make it out to Palm Springs for the exhibit, the accompanying hardcover catalog offers more than 200 illustrations and insightful essays, all which further examine the cultural importance of these unique hallmarks of life in the Golden State.

Swimming Pool

Bob Mizer, Richard Dubois, 1953, gelatin silver print, Bob Mizer Foundation Permanent Collection © Bob Mizer Foundation

Swimming Pool

Lawrence Schiller, Entertainment at the Bar, 1960/printed 2011, digital chromogenic print, Courtesy of Judith and Lawrence Schiller; Lawrence Schiller © Polaris Communications, Inc. Photo courtesy Palm Springs Art Museum

Swimming Pool

Mel Roberts, Rich Thompson and Mike Kelley, Bel Air, 1962, C-type print, Estate of Mel Roberts © Michael H. Epstein & Scott E. Schwimer. Photo courtesy Palm Springs Art Museum

Swimming Pool

Lawrence Schiller, Paradise Cove, 1964, printed 2011, modern digital chromogenic print from original negative, Courtesy of Judith and Lawrence Schiller; Lawrence Schiller © Polaris Communications, Inc. Photo courtesy Palm Springs Art Museum

Swimming Pool

Edmund Teske, Mineral Baths, Big Sur, California, 1967, gelatin silver print, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles © Edmund Teske Archives/Laurence Bump and Nils Vidstrand, 2001. Photo courtesy Palm Springs Art Museum

Swimming Pool

Michael Childers, David Hockney at Rising Glen, Hollywood, 1978, gelatin silver print, Collection Palm Springs Art Museum, gift of the artist © Michael Childers. Photo courtesy Palm Springs Art Museum

Swimming Pool

Mel Roberts, Robert and Cliff, Sherman Oaks, 1980, type R print from Kodachrome transparency, Estate of Mel Roberts © Michael H. Epstein & Scott E. Schwimer. Photo courtesy Palm Springs Art Museum

Swimming Pool

Herb Ritts, Richard Gere, Poolside, 1982, C-type print, Courtesy of the Herb Ritts Foundation, Los Angeles © Herb Ritts Foundation. Photo courtesy Palm Springs Art Museum

Swimming Pool

David Hockney, Brian Los Angeles Sunday 21st March 1982, 1982, color Polaroid composite, Collection of David Hockney © David Hockney; photo credit Richard Schmidt. Photo courtesy Palm Springs Art Museum

Swimming Pool

Bill Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. Alan Ladd at Home, 1950s, gelatin silver print, Collection Palm Springs Art Museum, gift of Dorothy Anderson © Palm Springs Art Museum

Swimming Pool

Ruth Bernhard, At the Pool, 1951, printed 1976 by the photographer, gelatin silver print, Courtesy of Scott Nichols Gallery, San Francisco; Ruth Bernhard Archive, Princeton University Art Museum; © Trustees of Princeton University

Swimming Pool

George Tate, Three Equilibrists, 1953, gelatin silver print, Collection Santa Monica History Museum © George Tate Photography Archive

Swimming Pool

Bill Anderson, Rock Hudson, 1954/printed 2001, archival inkjet print from original negative, Collection Palm Springs Art Museum, gift of Dorothy Anderson © Palm Springs Art Museum

Swimming Pool

Bill Anderson, Liberace and friend, 1957/printed 2011, archival inkjet print from original negative, Collection Palm Springs Art Museum, gift of Dorothy Anderson © Palm Springs Art Museum

Swimming Pool

Bill Anderson, Raymond Loewy Family, Palm Springs, California, 1957, gelatin silver print, Collection Palm Springs Art Museum, gift of Dorothy Anderson © Palm Springs Art Museum

Swimming Pool

Lawrence Schiller, Palm Springs Fashion, No. 8, 1964/printed 2011, digital chromogenic print, Courtesy of Judith and Lawrence Schiller, Lawrence Schiller © Polaris Communications, Inc.

Swimming Pool

Bill Owens, He’s a typical Californian who doesn’t know how to relax, 1971/printed 2000, c-type print, Courtesy of PDNB Gallery, Dallas, TX © Bill Owens

Swimming Pool

Bill Owens, We don’t have to conform, 1971/printed 2000, c-type print, Courtesy of PDNB Gallery, Dallas, TX © Bill Owens

Swimming Pool

Jim French, Tony Regalia, Malibu Canyon, 1973, gelatin silver print, Jim French Studio © Jim French, Courtesy of Renner Gallery

Swimming Pool

Craig Stecyk, Jay Adams, Northridge, California, ca. 1973, gelatin silver print, Courtesy of the artist © C.R. Stecyk

Swimming Pool

Loretta Ayeroff, Abandoned Pool, California Ruins, Perris Valley, 1974/printed 2011, Type R print from Kodachrome transparency, Courtesy of Loretta Ayeroff © 1974 Loretta Ayeroff

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