May 22, 2013
Doug White, “The Famous Merle’s Drive-in (Visalia),” ca. 1950. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
In a reaction against the outdated revivalist architectural style of previous decades, young American architects during the early to mid-20th century sought a new aesthetic—one that would embody progressivism and forward-thinking. That movement: modernism. Its testing ground: sunny California, particularly the Los Angeles Basin, which became the laboratory locale of choice.
With the help of new companies, like Edison Electric, the city of Los Angeles had the infrastructure to rapidly expand while enlisting the modern movement as its defining style. As LA became America’s modern city, photography played a crucial role in disseminating new examples of the architecture and design aesthetic to the masses. Edison Electric enlisted photographers in the field to document every step of the way. These photogs took pictures of everything from restaurants and office interiors to the telephone poles on the street, amassing a large collection that exhaustively depicts LA’s maturation. Eventually, the collection grew into an archive called the Southern California Edison Archive of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
Now, for the first time ever, the nearly 70,000 photographs in the collection will become the basis for a new online exhibit entitled “Form and Landscape: Southern California Edison and the Los Angeles Basin, 1940–1990.” The exhibition is part of a series of Getty initiatives celebrating California’s revered modern architectural heritage. Click through to read more!