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In 1946, the tabloid photographer known as Weegee relocated from New York City to Los Angeles. Abandoning the grisly crime scenes for which he was best known, Weegee trained his camera instead on Hollywood celebrities, starlets, autograph seekers, and shop-window mannequins, sometimes distorted through trick lenses and multiple exposures. “Now I could really photograph the subjects I liked,” said Weegee of his newfound career in Los Angeles, “I was free.”
Following the photographer’s lead, the exhibition and accompanying catalog documents the lurid, irresistible undersides of stardom, fandom, commerce, and self-promotion in mid-century Los Angeles. In addition to presenting approximately 200 photographs, many of which have never before been shown, the book explores Weegee’s related work as an author, filmmaker, and photo-essayist. The photo-book Naked Hollywood, by Weegee and Mel Harris (published in hardcover in 1953 and released as a pulp paperback in 1955), provides the inspiration and departure point for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, exhibition and catalog, the latter of which reproduces the pulp paperback edition in its entirety.
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Richard Meyer is associate professor of art history and fine arts at the University of Southern California, where he directs The Contemporary Project, an initiative to forge new dialogues between the academy and the art world. He is the author of Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century American Art, which received the Charles Eldredge Prize for Outstanding Scholarship from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
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