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Robert Graham, 70, Leaves Downtown a Legacy in Bronze

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, January 07, 2009, at 01:09PM
Angel.jpg Ed Fuentes

Sculptor Robert Graham's Madonna at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The shaft above her head creates a halo as the sun moves from east to west.

This morning, services were held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for sculptor Robert Graham, who passed away on December 27. In the week since, many appreciations have been written of Graham's perfectionism, along with varied interpretations of the recurring intimate imagery of the female form. All noted how he mastered the space around his public art with the same detail as the sculptures themselves.

While many know Graham's 1984 "Olympic Gateway" at the entrance of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a tour of his other works around Downtown makes for a very special kind of a Downtown art walk.

At the north end of Bunker Hill is the masterpiece designed by Graham and sculpted with 150 artists. An adolescent Madonna, perhaps Latina, sits under ornamental space welcoming those entering the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels’ set of bronze doors textured with religious cultural iconography.

At the south end of Bunker Hill is the three-foot bronze statue of a young African-American woman quietly facing the Central Library, watching over the fountain that spills toward 5th street from the top of the steps.

Together, “The Great Bronze Doors” and “Source Figure” bookend Downtown’s enclave of public art and art institutions on Grand Avenue and Hope Street.

Between those two works, somehow appropriately, is the 1978 private commission "Dance Door” that was donated to the Music Center in 1982. Entering the door will lead you to onto the Music Center Campus. Looking behind, one will see City Hall in the background of the soon-to-be-redeveloped Civic Center Park.

By fate, these three all have stairs fronting the work. By design, they all carry a serene emotion. Our fortune is that they are all Downtown.

Robert Graham. 1938-2008.

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