American photographer Julius Shulman’s images of Californian architecture have burned themselves into the retina of the 20th century. A book on modern architecture without Shulman is inconceivable. Some of his architectural photographs, like the iconic shots of Frank Lloyd Wright’s or Pierre Koenig’s remarkable structures, have been published countless times. The brilliance of buildings like those by Charles Eames, as well as those of his close friend, Richard Neutra, was first brought to light by Shulman’s photography. The clarity of his work demanded that architectural photography had to be considered as an independent art form. Each Shulman image unites perception and understanding for the buildings and their place in the landscape. The precise compositions reveal not just the architectural ideas behind a building’s surface, but also the visions and hopes of an entire age. A sense of humanity is always present in his work, even when the human figure is absent from the actual photographs. Today, a great many of the buildings documented by Shulman have disappeared or been crudely converted, but the thirst for his pioneering images is stronger than ever before.
Elizabeth A. T. Smith is Executive Director of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, based in New York. Previously, she was Executive Director, Curatorial Affairs, at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto; Chief Curator and Deputy Director of Programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. While at LA MOCA she curated the 1989 exhibition Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses. She has curated, published, and lectured widely on a variety of topics in contemporary art and architecture.
Peter Gössel runs an agency for museum and exhibition design. He has published TASCHEN monographs on Julius Shulman, R. M. Schindler, John Lautner, and Richard Neutra, as well as several titles in the Basic Architecture series.