Form and Landscape
June 18, 2013 7:04 PM   Subscribe

Form and Landscape - Southern California Edison and the Los Angeles Basin, 1940-1990 - is a series of themed exhibitions that tell the story of how Los Angeles 'became modern' by using photos from the comprehensive archives of Southern California Edison. The photos portray the many roles that electricity has played in the development and modernization of Californian life and culture (domestic life, signage, streetscapes, etc.). Part of the Getty's Pacific Standard Time Presents initiative.
posted by carter (7 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Before I begin read this, I must note that the incorporated City of Los Angeles (not the biggest part of the L.A. region, but certainly the most important) was served during all that time NOT by Southern California Edison, but by the public electric utility Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. It'll be interesting to see how much of the Public infrastructure is claimed by (or ignored by) SCE. Because in all my years living in DWP and SCE areas of L.A., DWP was my favorite utility.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:21 PM on June 18, 2013

Ah interesting point, thanks oneswellfoop. They do talk about the Basin; chalk that one up to my perception of LA being an undifferentiated west coast blob ... I was thinking that some link to map locations might be useful here, if that location is available in the original archive record.
posted by carter at 7:36 PM on June 18, 2013

carter- thanks for the fantastic link. I'd read an article about these exhibitions but didn't know about the site- what fantastic photos. I'm particularly enjoying photos of coffeeshops and restaurants. LA's Googie palaces sure used a lot of fantastic neon and lighting back in the day. Outstanding photography, especially shots that catch lights shining through marine layer fog and smog.

As for SCE and LADWP, this PDF shows current service areas: you can see that LADWP serves the City of LA, while most of the rest of metro LA, the Inland Empire, and Orange County are SoCal Edison. These photos show areas served by DWP and by SCE alike... lots of great stuff from downtown LA, but plenty from the suburbs as well.

A couple of interesting points about the map: it's amazing to see just how much territory is covered by SoCal Edison and PG&E. Another weird bit is seeing LADWP covering the Owens River Valley... this is thanks to LADWP's unprecedented efforts to take water from the valley to feed a growing LA back in the early 1900s... a situation that has by many accounts caused an ecological disaster in the valley.

Also, one interesting thing to know is that LA wasn't really that massive "blob" until the 1950s or 1960s. You'd actually have to drive in between suburbs... actual open space filled with farms, orange groves, etc. Disneyland was considered "out of the way" and "out in the sticks" when it first opened, for example. LA was a pretty huge blob by that point, yes, but there was actually open space between LA and Anaheim, or LA and Pomona, for example. Now, you can drive from Cabazon to the east, all the way to Ventura to the west (over 150 miles), and never leave civilization.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:40 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Lou Reed Chrysler Plymouth - come see the last great American whales!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:15 AM on June 19, 2013

Great link, carter.
posted by a halcyon day at 5:38 AM on June 19, 2013

This is some great stuff. I'm a bit blockheaded this morning though, where/when can I see some of these photos in person? Or did the exhibition pass already?
posted by malapropist at 7:07 AM on June 19, 2013

This is some great stuff. I'm a bit blockheaded this morning though, where/when can I see some of these photos in person? Or did the exhibition pass already?

If I'm reading this correctly, there were some IRL exhibits, from which the online exhibition sprung.
In the aftermath of Pacific Standard Time (PST), a uniquely successful collaborative project of exhibitions, public programs, and publications which together took intellectual and aesthetic stock of southern California’s artists, art scenes, and artistic production across nearly the entirety of the post-World War II era, the Getty launched an initiative with a tighter focus on architecture during the same era. “Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A.” has as one of its ambitious goals a collective explication of “how the city was made Modern.” For PST, the Getty partnered with dozens of cultural and educational institutions to offer a diverse and eclectic array of exhibits and programs. The institutional and grant-making alchemy of Getty leadership mixed with centrifugal funding and freedom worked magnificently; in sheer volume and insight alike, the meld of scholarly consideration with public programming revolutionized our collective understanding of the regional art world across four or five decades of the twentieth century. Pacific Standard Time Presents (PSTP) benefits from and builds on that considerable momentum. And that is where this on-line photographic exhibition comes in.
Which I'm guessing an artist wrote. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:59 AM on June 19, 2013

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