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Art: Photography

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


Jan 21, 2012 – May 27, 2012

Tuesdays–Wednesdays (10am–5pm)

Thursdays (noon–8pm)

Fridays–Sundays (10am–5pm)


Palm Springs Art Museum

101 N Museum Dr



$5 - 12.50


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 — all examining the importance of these unique hallmarks of life in the Golden State.

Tanja M. Laden, Flavorpill


See more images from Backyard Oasis.

Palm Springs Art Museum says…

As part of the Getty Foundation's Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945-1980 regional initiative, Backyard Oasis examines swimming pools in photographs from 1945 to 1982 as visual analogs of the ideals and expectations associated with Southern California. These images of individual water-based environs in the arid landscape are an integral part of the region's identity, a microcosm of the hopes and disillusionments of the country's post-World War II ethos. As a private setting, the backyard pool became a stage for sub-culture rituals and clandestine desires. As a medium, photography became the primary vehicle for embodying the polar emotions of consumer optimism and Cold War fears. Crossing the boundaries of popular and high culture, commercial merchandising, journalistic reporting, and vernacular memorabilia, photography conveyed the developing ideologies of the period. As such, its visual language forms a network of discursive topics that open onto each other, offering a rich study of physical and cultural geography. For the first time, this exhibition, its catalog, and attendant programs trace the integrated histories of photography and the iconography of the swimming pool, bringing new light to aspects of this complex interaction.