News Details

Outerbridge Photo Exhibit Comes to Old OC Courthouse

Paul Outerbridge: New Color Photographs from Mexico and California, 1948–1955, an Exhibit from the Famed Photographer Debuts January 13 through March 21, Old Orange County Courthouse

Recently discovered, dynamic, vibrant color images of California and Mexico taken during the 1940s and 1950s by the late visionary photographer Paul Outerbridge, who was considered “a master of color photography,” will be on display in an upcoming exhibit at the Old Orange County Courthouse.

Sponsored by OC Parks, Paul Outerbridge: New Color Photographs from Mexico and California, 1948-1955 comes to the historic courthouse’s third-floor gallery at 211 W. Santa Ana Blvd. in Santa Ana from January 13 through March 21. This is only the second time the collection has been exhibited in Southern California.

Outerbridge, who died in 1958, built his reputation in the early 1920s in New York and Paris making elegant black-and-white photo abstractions, primarily of nudes and still lifes that rivaled those of his peers Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen and Edward Weston. In the 1930s, Outerbridge mastered the exquisite tri-carbro-color print process and went on to make some of the most important color photographs in art and advertising of that time.

Moving to California in 1943 and taking up residence in Laguna Beach, Outerbridge made his last important body of work throughout California and Mexico. Between 1948 and until his death in 1958, he codified a new language in color photographs that anticipated the work of William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld and others known for their "New Color" work in the 1970s.

The curious position of prosperous American tourists amid the daily poverty experienced by some Mexicans is one of the recurring themes in the work, but with Outerbridge there is no political polemic,” says co-curator Phillip Prodger.Outerbridge was thinking of his photographs as jigsaw puzzles made up of many different highly colored pieces, each placed with meticulous care.”

Among Outerbridge’s subjects are carnival carriages with passengers dressed and headed for a grand party; a group of fashionable men relaxing in an outdoor hotel lobby enjoying drinks while a small orchestra plays; a girl in a lime-green dress and white sweater walking past a gas station with painted-red details that add a vibrant flourish to the scene.

This exhibit showcases the later, lesser-known work of Paul Outerbridge, and gives a look back into Orange County at the onset of color photography. His move to Laguna Beach in 1943 provided Outerbridge the opportunity to capture the vibrant colors and peoples of the area. These photos show the unique lifestyles of the people of Laguna Beach and Mexico and are the perfect subjects to pioneer the art of color photography.

This exhibition is curated by William A. Ewing, Graham Howe and Phillip Prodger, and is circulated by Curatorial Assistance, Pasadena.

Paul Outerbridge: New Color Photographs from Mexico and California, 1948-1955 exhibit is free and open to the public during business hours, Monday through Friday: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Old Orange County Courthouse is closed on holidays.  For more information, visit ocparks.com or call (714) 973-6607.