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Pictures That Will Make You Fall Back in Love with Driving in L.A.
If you weren’t lucky enough to check out “Driving L.A.,” a recently wrapped exhibit of more than 63 photographs chronicling our city’s relationship with the car, we have a few choice images from the Craig Krull Gallery exhibit.
The show begins with two 1920s-era shots from E.O. Hoppe, with oil derricks in Signal Hill foreshadowing the growing emergence of car culture. Julius Shulman also gets his due in “Driving L.A.,” with the architectural photographer capturing the city’s auto showrooms, lavishing love on them like he would with Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #22. The car glamour is cemented with celebrity auto-philes closely associated with L.A., like Dennis Hopper and Joan Didion, posing next to, or in, their rides.
L.A.’s beautiful weather has always been tailor-made for cruising, with drivers freed from icy roads and gusty winds. The freedom of movement that the city facilitates is evident in Jerry McMillan’s ’70s-era photo of three guys sipping beer while sitting on the trunk of a car with Oklahoma plates.
While the relationship between L.A. and cars was initially breezy, the exhibition also captures an increasingly complicated dynamic, as freeway infrastructure, traffic, and outsize vehicles begin to overwhelm the landscape—take notice of Tom Bradley’s shot of an old Pontiac that simultaneously eats up and blends in with the apartment building behind it (the Pontiac’s sexy curves also stand in contrast to the bland structure’s straight lines and rectangular windows).
Melvyn Douglas and Myrna Loy in a stationary car from the set of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, 1948. Photograph by John Swope courtesy of Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, California.