Mark Johnstone, Curator
For many outsiders, California has long been regarded as a land of opportunity, with its promise of easy prosperity, unlimited vistas and boundless sunshine. Fueled in no small part by this belief, the 1970s and 80s marked a period of unparalleled population growth and accelerated expansion throughout all of Southern California. During this time, with a keen eye for detail and a profound sense of irony, Joe Deal examined the life and culture of Southern California in a remarkable series of photographs.
Deal photographed in locales ranging from rural California communities such as Soba Springs and Corona to the skyscrapers on Bunker Hill in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, recording evidence of a rapidly changing landscape. His images of the newly-built subdivisions of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties record the shift of those areas from rural, empty fields into a tangled web of bedroom-communities for the commuters of Los Angeles.
Deal's work exemplifies an approach to photographing the landscape that became known in the early 1970s as the New Topographics, a minimalist stance in which more is inferred by the image than what is actually shown, but Deal goes one step further. His eloquent photographic description of architecture, light and landscape is purely a stratagem for raising questions about underlying issues such as land and water use, controlled growth and other concerns for the environment which affect the future of all of our communities.
Ultimately, Deal's photographs represent much more than a survey of the urban landscape and vernacular architecture in Southern California. Deal's photographs hold lessons for us about the future. From manicured lawns and shopping malls in what were once desert arroyos to cities built at the edge of the beach, the sociological implications are profound and never far from view to the careful observer of these photographs.
NUMBER OF WORKS: 30
SUPPORT MATERIALS: Publication, University of New Mexico Press, 1992