Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.

Arts and Entertainment

Three L.A. Museums On The Most 'Distinctly Los Angeles' Pieces In Their Collections

Before you
Dear reader, we're asking you to help us keep local news available for all. Your tax-deductible financial support keeps our stories free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.

What makes something distinctly Los Angeles? Is it that particular mix of sunshine or noir? The endless diversity? Or a perfectly framed palm tree silhouetted above a dingbat apartment building at dusk?

Last week during #AskACurator day, we asked a number of the city's finest museums which piece in their collection they thought was "most distinctly Los Angeles." Here's what they told us.

Norton Simon Museum: "Hollywood in the Rain" by Ed Ruscha

Pasadena's Norton Simon Museum chose a lithograph by one of Los Angeles' greatest visual interpreters: Ed Ruscha. The contemporary artist has lived in the Southland for more than six decades, and during his time here he's done far more than just elevate L.A.'s art world profile. Ruscha's work has also fundamentally shaped the way people see the city, and the imagery they associate with L.A.

Support for LAist comes from

In the lithograph "Hollywood in the Rain," the "sign’s letters appear at the top of the hill, rather than mid-slope, as they actually are situated and as he would have seen them from his Western Avenue address. This exaggeration of the placement of the sign represents the illusion of Hollywood as others might see it in the collective consciousness," according to the Norton Simon's website.

Getty Museum: Julius Shulman's Photograph of Case Study House #22

Julius Shulman's iconic photographs of Case Study House #22 (also known as the Stahl House) would make the modernist home one of the most famous in the world—and help define the way people envisioned midcentury Los Angeles. The glass-­enclosed Hollywood Hills home was one of 36 Case Study Houses commissioned by Arts & Architecture magazine between 1945 and 1966.

Last year, Time Magazine named Shulman's photograph of Case Study House #22 as one of the 100 most influential photographs of all time:

The photo, which [Shulman] called “one of my masterpieces,” is the most successful real estate image ever taken. It perfected the art of aspirational staging, turning a house into the embodiment of the Good Life, of stardusted Hollywood, of California as the Promised Land. And, thanks to Shulman, that dream now includes a glass box in the sky.

Julius Shulman's photography archive, which contains over 260,000 vintage and modern prints, negatives, and transparencies, is housed at the Getty Research Institute. The Stahl House is open for tours.

The Autry: Nudie Cohn's Personal Suit

Though some might associate legendary tailor Nudie Cohn with Nashville, given the iconic role his clothes have played in country music, the Ukrainian émigré was famous for his store in North Hollywood. The "Rodeo Tailor" moved to Hollywood in 1947, and his immigrant success story remains a deeply California tale. Embellished "Nudie suits," as his creations are known, have graced everyone from Elvis Presley to Elton John.

Support for LAist comes from

And here's all-time great singer and L.A. native Gillian Welch, wearing a very similar Nudie suit at a gig at Los Angeles' equally legendary Wiltern Theater:

Related: How Ed Ruscha Photographed Every Building On The Sunset Strip
Inside The Iconic Midcentury Stahl House (Case Study House #22)

Most Read