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Book review: 'The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography'

February 13, 2012 |  9:54 am

"Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography"
Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982

Daniell Cornell, ed.; Prestel pp.256; $60

A splashy picture book makes sense for a large-format volume on post-World War II photographs that include swimming pools.

With more than 200 images by nearly 50 artists, starting in the 1940s with Ruth Bernhard and ending with David Hockney's early 1980s multi-Polaroids, this handsomely printed catalog to a large Pacific Standard Time show at the Palm Springs Art Museum accomplishes that.

It fudges a bit by including a few seashore pictures; but together with the photographs' pleasurable indulgences, the five essays also have larger, smarter points to make.

Along with the artificial Eden represented by the swimming pool construction-boom and the emerging gay sub-theme in the arc from Bernhard's babes to Hockney's boys, camera-work underwent a simultaneous shift.

Sharp-focused Modernist purity gave way to postmodern multiplicity, and America's narrow domestic environment changed along with it.


More art reviews from the Los Angeles Times

Art review: 'The History of Bruce' at Stephen Cohen Gallery

Art review: 'In Wonderland: The Adventures of Surrealist Women Artists' at LACMA

-- Christopher Knight