Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Baltz (Lewis) notebooks and ephemera
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (123.80 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Lewis Baltz notebooks and ephemera
    Date (inclusive): 1987-2011
    Number: 2015.M.27
    Creator/Collector: Baltz, Lewis, 1945-2014
    Physical Description: 3.5 Linear Feet (6 boxes)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The collection of ephemera and notebooks from photographer Lewis Baltz gives insight to his public exhibitions and daily life between 1987-2011. The ephemera documents Baltz's group and solo exhibitions, while notebooks dating from 1995-2005 present a detailed overview of Baltz's career-related activities, meetings, projects planned and executed, and expenses. Also present are several photographs of and by Baltz. Also present are several photographs of and by Baltz.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in English with some French, German, Dutch; Flemish, and Japanese.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    American photographer and author Lewis Baltz first gained recognition as one of the key figures in the New Topographic Movement of the late 1970s, pioneering an approach to photography that refused to glorify industrial process, revealing instead landscapes blighted by rapid development and human detritus. Born in Newport Beach, California in 1945, Baltz became interested in photography at an early age and began photographing seriously at age 12. He poured over photography publications (early influences were Ed van der Elsken, Wright Morris and Edward Weston) and frequented camera shops, especially William R. Current's store in Laguna Beach, where the owner became his early mentor, employing him in the store at age 14. Baltz graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1969 and received his MFA from Claremont Graduate School in 1971.
    Growing up in postwar Southern California, Baltz witnessed first-hand the region's rapid transformation from open, agricultural and desert space into a homogenized urban environment. By 1967 he had already begun responding to the changes around him, creating tightly framed black-and-white photographs that recorded the generic, oft-overlooked details of these man-made environments – the flat, expansive stucco facades punctuated by blank windows and exterior piping; signage; parking lots; empty closets and set-like motel rooms of the new tract house developments and anonymous, light industrial and commercial urban spaces. These early single images, which he first called the Highway Series, were later to be collectively titled Prototype Works .
    From single images of generic, urban details Baltz went on to produce images in series such as The Tract Houses (1969-1971), The New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California (1974-1975), Nevada (1977), Park City (1978-1981) and San Quentin Point (1981-1983) that charted, with minimalist precision, both the monotonous urbanization of once-isolated locations and the newly-created wastelands on their marginalized edges.
    Baltz's first solo show, Tract Houses, was held at the Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, in 1971 when he was 26. His work gained further recognition with his participation in the ground-breaking 1975 group exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape , curated by William Jenkins, and first held at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. Along with Robert Adams and Joe Deal, among other photographers, Baltz advanced a documentary view of landscape which appositionally responded to their photographic predecessors, such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, by abandoning all traces of the sublimity of the natural world in their work in favor of a detached, critical view of urban and suburban realities and their terrains.
    In his serial work of the 1980s Baltz gradually shifted from black-and-white to color photography. This shift coincided with his feeling that he had exhausted the subject of the postwar industrial transformation of American landscape, and he began moving from creating images evoking the past, however recent, to creating those meant to convey the future. Candlestick Point (1984-1990), which includes his first color images (12 out of the 84 images in the series are color), explores the temporality of the no-man's land between the San Francisco airport and the city's ballpark. In this series, Baltz's only United States commission, he documented the desolate landfill that was destined to be made into Candlestick Point State Recreation Area.
    Disenchanted with American Reagan-Bush era politics, Baltz moved to Europe in the late 1980s, where his use of color photography coincided with a paradigmatic shift in his serial works from making what were essentially documentary images to making images with a more explicit social and political content. He became especially interested in exploring the uses and abuses of new technologies. In series such as The Power Trilogy (1992-1995) Baltz explores the omnipresence of surveillance cameras and society's increasing dependence on and subsequent vulnerability to powerful new science and medical technologies. Next, his practice further moved from making traditionally-sized serial photographs suitable for gallery and museum viewing, i.e. in a "private" setting, to the creation of large-scale, site- or audience-specific works, often manifested as a single image. These projects were primarily created for public spaces and broad public audience participation. Furthermore, in works such as Piazza Sigmund Freud (1989) and SHHHH! (for Luxembourg) (1995) Baltz broadened his definition of what a "site" might be, moving from the concept of a concrete, physical place to seeing a site as embodying a social fabric, a community or the history of a place. Yet, despite such shifts in his practice, Baltz's subject always essentially remains the fraught and highly complex relationships between urban space, architecture, landscape and ecology.
    Seeing books as more democratic and less precious than original photographs, Baltz began publishing from his serial work in 1974 with The New Industrial Parks near Irvine California . Although he favored machine-made, mass-produced publications over unique handmade artists' books, Baltz nevertheless insisted on achieving facsimile reproduction in order to create an experience closer to or even better than viewing an original photographic print. His early books were published by Leo Castelli Gallery. In 1993 Baltz met the publisher Gerhard Steidl, the printer for the Fotomuseum Winterthur's (Scalo Verlag) reproduction of the catalog for Baltz's 1990 retrospective Rule without Exception. Steidl became his primary publisher, producing new books as well as reprinting the early Castelli Gallery publications.
    Baltz was the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including a scholarship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1973, 1977), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1977), the US-UK Bicentennial Exchange Fellowship (1980), and the Charles Brett Memorial Award (1991). He had over 50 one-person exhibitions, not only at Castelli, where he was part of the gallery's stable for a number of years, but also at museums and galleries such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Tokyo Institute of Polytechnics, and the Albertina. His work has also been in more than 160 group exhibitions, commencing with California Photographers 1970 at the Pasadena Museum of Modern Art and including seven recent thematic exhibitions in 2011, three of which were associated with the Getty initiative Pacific Standard Time: Under the Big Black Sun: California Art, 1974-1981 (MOCA); It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles, 1969-1973 (Pomona College Museum of Art); and Seismic Shift: Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal and California Landscape Photography, 1944-1984 (California Museum of Photography, Riverside). Baltz's works are found in museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Tate Modern, London; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
    Baltz taught in numerous East Coast and West Coast American universities as well as at the Università Iuav Di Venezia and the European Graduate School EGS in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. He was married to the photographer Slavica Perkovic, with whom he frequently collaborated. Baltz died in Paris in 2014.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Lewis Baltz notebooks and ephemera, 1987-2011, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2015.M.27.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Heidi Yorkshire and Joseph Anthony. Acquired in 2015.

    Processing History

    The collection was processed in 2015 by Kathrin Schoenegg under the supervision of Kit Messick. Material was rehoused and arranged in chronological order, and completely faded thermographic paper was removed. The biographical/historical note was written by Beth Ann Guynn.

    Related Archival Materials

    Lewis Baltz Archive, 1967-2013, Getty Research Institute, Accession no. 2013.M.31.
    The library additionally holds a copy of Baltz's portfolio Venezia Marghera (2013), Special Collections accession number 2014.R.17*.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection comprises ephemera and personal notebooks belonging to photographer Lewis Baltz (1945-2014) giving insight into his public exhibitions and daily life between 1987-2011. The material directly complements the Lewis Baltz archive (2013.M.31). The ephemera documents Baltz's solo and group exhibitions through invitations to exhibition openings, catalogues, printed articles, reviews, and notices by and about Baltz. The material relates to projects including Nevada, Rule Without Exception, and The Deaths in Newport Beach . Also present are several exhibition-related postcards sent by Baltz, two photographic portraits, and three photographs by Baltz originating from a press package. The notebooks present a detailed overview of Baltz's career-related activities and expenses between 1995-2004. In addition to information about his daily routines and private musings, the notebooks discuss various planned and realised projects such as exhibitions, art fairs, purchases, films, lectures, conferences, and book and magazine publications. The collection also provides insight to Baltz's international network of friends and colleagues in the art world including well-known figures in Canada, Europe, Japan, and the United States.


    Arranged in two series: Series I. Ephemera, 1987-2011; Series II. Notebooks, 1995-2004.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Rian, Jeffrey
    Schifferli, Christoph
    Lyon, Dominique
    Steidl, Gerhard
    Aigner, Carl, 1954-
    Stahel, Urs
    Amelunxen, Hubertus von
    Baltz, Lewis, 1945-2014

    Subjects - Corporate Bodies

    Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, Calif.)
    Fotomuseum Winterthur
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art

    Subjects - Topics

    New topographics (Photography)
    Art, American -- 20th century
    Art, American -- 21st century

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Photographs, Original
    Gelatin silver prints -- United States -- 20th century
    Receipts (financial records)
    Silver-dye bleach prints -- 20th century
    Printed ephemera


    Baltz, Lewis, 1945-2014