Sabato Rodia's Towers in WattsArt, Migrations, Development

Sabato Rodia's Towers in WattsArt, Migrations, Development

Luisa Del Giudice

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780823257966

Publisher: Fordham University Press


The extraordinary Watts Towers were created over the course of three decades by a determined, single-minded artist, Sabato Rodia. Now a National Historic Landmark and internationally renowned destination, the Watts Towers in Los Angeles are both a personal artistic expression and a collective symbol of Nuestro Pueblo—Our Town/Our People. Featuring fresh and innovative examinations, this book is a much-anticipated revisitation of the man and his towers. In 1919, Sabato Rodia purchased a triangular plot of land in a multiethnic, working-class, semi-rural district. He set to work on an unusual building project in his own yard. By night, Rodia dreamed and excogitated, and by day he built. He experimented with form, color, texture, cement mixtures, and construction techniques. He built, tore down, and re-built. As an artist completely possessed by his work, he was often derided as an incomprehensible crazy man. Providing a multifaceted, holistic understanding of Rodia, the towers, and the cultural/social/physical environment within which the towers and their maker can be understood, this book compiles essays from twenty authors, offering perspectives from the arts, the communities involved in the preservation and interpretation of the towers, and the academy. The Watts Towers are wondrous objects of art and architecture as well as the expression and embodiment of the resolve of a singular artistic genius to do something great. But they also recount the heroic civic efforts (art and social action) to save them, both of which continue to this day to evoke awe and inspiration.

Table of Contents

Part 1 Situating Sabato Rodia and the Watts Towers: Art Movements, Cultural Contexts, and Migrations

Local Art, Global Issues

Jo Farb Hernández

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

Guglielmo Bilancioni

Without Precedent

Thomas Harrison

An Era of Grand Ambitions

Richard Cándida Smith

Parallel Expressions

George Epolito

Part 2 The Watts Towers Contested: Conservation, Guardianship, and Cultural Heritage

Fifty Years of Guardianship

Jeanne S. Morgan

A Custody Case

Jeffrey Herr

Nuestro Pueblo:

Sarah Schrank

Part 3 The Watts Towers and Community Development

Artists in Conversation

R. Judson Powell, John Outterbridge, Charles Dickson, Betye Saar, Kenzi Shiokava, Augustine Aguirre. ARTIST’S PANEL MODERATED BY ROSIE LEE HOOKS (SATURDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2010, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES, 121 DODD HALL)