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Uploaded by : Chris Vroom | 01/05/10

  • Title:
    Watts Towers
  • Artist:
    Simon Rodia
  • Year:
  • Description:
    Rodia emigrated from Italy to the US at age 15 with a brother. He lived in Pennsylvania until his brother was killed in a mining accident, at which point he moved to the west coast. He first lived in Seattle, then Oakland, and then Long Beach before settling in Watts in the early 1920s. While living in Seattle, he married and had three children with his wife. While living in Watts he began the construction of the Watts Towers or Nuestro Pueblo ("Our Town"). The sculptures' armatures are constructed from steel pipes and rods, wrapped with wire mesh, coated with mortar. The main supports are embedded with pieces of porcelain, tile, and glass (Green glass includes recognizable soft drink bottles, some still bearing the logos of 7 Up, Squirt, Bubble Up, and Canada Dry; blue glass appears to be from milk of magnesia bottles). They are decorated with found objects: bed frames, bottles, ceramic tiles, scrap metal and sea shells. Neighborhood children brought pieces of broken glass and pottery to Rodia in hopes they would be added to the project, however the majority of the material consisted of damaged pieces from the Malibu Pottery, where he worked for many years. Rodia reportedly did not get along with his neighbors, some of whom allowed their children to vandalize his work. Rumors that the towers were antennae for communicating with enemy Japanese forces, or contained buried treasure, caused suspicion and further vandalism. In 1955, Rodia gave the property away and left, reportedly tired of the abuse he had received. He retired to Martinez, California, and never returned. The city of Los Angeles condemned the structure and ordered it razed, however an actor, Nicholas King, and a film editor, William Cartwright, visited the site in 1959, saw the neglect, and decided to buy the property for $3,000 in order to preserve it. When the city found out about the transfer, it decided to perform the demolition before the transfer went through. The towers had already become famous and there was great opposition to the dim witted efforts of city bureaucrats from around the world. King, Cartwright, and a curator of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, along with area architects, artists, and community activists formed the Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts. The Committee negotiated with the city to allow for an engineering test to establish the safety of the structures. For the test, steel cable was attached to each tower and a crane was used to exert lateral force. The crane was unable to topple or even shift the towers, and the test was concluded when the crane experienced mechanical failure. The committee preserved the towers independently until 1975, when it deeded the site to the City of Los Angeles, which in turn gave ownership to the State of California. It is now designated the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia State Historic Park.
  • Disciplines and Movements:
    VISUAL ARTS, Modern Sculpture and Art Brut/Outsider Art
  • Themes and Tags:

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