Backyard Oasis

California’s Poolside Glamour Captured in New Palm Springs Exhibition

Dispel the January blues by celebrating the beauty, optimism and ritzy lifestyle associated with the swimming pools of Southern California, in this series of iconic photographs featuring the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Richard Gere. The sunny images are included in Palm Springs Art Museum’s latest exhibition, Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, in 1945 – 1982. Senior curator Daniell Cornell amassed 135 carefully selected photographs, including David Hockney’s sun-flecked scenes alongside Herb Ritts and Lawrence Schiller’s glamorous Hollywood-style portraits and more surreal takes from pop-art master John Baldessari. “These individual water-based environs in the arid landscape are an integral part of the region’s identity,” says Cornell, “a microcosm of the hopes and disillusionments of the country’s post-World War II ethos.” The exhibitions’ companion catalogue shows work from noted names of post-war photography and offers lengthy essays on the cultural relevance of the pool as a symbol not only of the rich and famous but also narcissism and escape.

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