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The City Of Pictures In Pictures

from the LA Times

‘This Side of Paradise’ at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

<b>AN EDEN?:</b> In November 1953, dancers with the Hollywood Negro Ballet pose for a publicity photograph for Ebony magazine.

The Huntington

AN EDEN?: In November 1953, dancers with the Hollywood Negro Ballet pose for a publicity photograph for Ebony magazine.

 

The newly refurbished Huntington mounts ‘This Side of Paradise,’ billed as the most comprehensive exhibition of photographs of Los Angeles, the city that grew up in the camera’s eye.

By Christopher Knight, Times Art Critic
June 18, 2008

 

A 1991 photograph by John Humble shows Selma Avenue at Vine Street as a jumbled, architecturally constructed Hollywood landscape of office buildings, stores, asphalt and advertising billboards. Dominating the center is Angelyne, the cosmetically manufactured “human Barbie doll,” who adorns one enormous sign.

Radio host Rick Dees, then an eternally adolescent 41-year-old, graces a KIIS sign just above her bleached-blond head. Neutered Ken to Angelyne’s pneumatic Barbie, he’s the benign Adam to her wicked Eve in Hollywood’s media-made Garden of Eden.

Humble’s deceptively simple image — documentary in the most profound sense of that slippery term — hangs at the entry wall to a large new exhibition at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Hot on the heels of opening its beautifully refurbished, exquisitely reinstalled mansion, so rich in 18th century European and other art, the Huntington has mounted what is being billed as the most comprehensive show of L.A. photographs ever assembled. It spans the 1860s to the present.

Those dates correspond with two epochal narratives: the history of Los Angeles, incorporated in 1850, and the modern development of the camera, invented almost simultaneously in France and England a scant decade before.

The title is borrowed from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, whose despairing protagonist laments, “I know myself, but that is all.” The alchemy of the still camera in fabricating perceptions of people and places is an inspired subject for examination. Humble’s picture is emblematic.

The show, like Fitzgerald’s book, is novelistic — less an art exhibition than a pictorial essay about L.A. as a mediated environment. Its whopping 284 photographs stand in for words. 

[ click to read full article in the LA Times ]

Posted on June 19, 2008 by Editor

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