Anyone 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.