August 11, 2008

The Watts Towers.

We went to see the Watts Towers, but they were partly covered in scaffolding and the fence doors were locked:

Watts Towers

I would have loved to take my fisheye lens inside those structures and look up and see all these things curving in toward the center, but it was not to be. What was the problem? It seems it rained one time or something. But it was still lots of fun to see the fanciful art project:

Watts Towers

We heard about the Italian immigrant, Simon Rodia, who devoted all his free time to constructing these things, single-handedly.

Watts Towers

I had to stick the camera and my hands through the bars of the fence to get these shots:

Watts Towers

There's a lovely community center next to the towers, and they had a nice exhibit of schoolkids' art and showed a perfect 1950s-style documentary on Rodia and his towers. What was 1950s about it? The music (which happened to be the same music used as the "Twilight Zone" theme, but in a different key). The attitude (all about the individualistic vision of the artist and devoid of sentimentality toward the ordinary citizens of his community). Too bad it's not on line. But why don't you drive out to Watts so you can watch it?

Watts Towers

I hope you get to see them sometime when you can go inside, but it was worth it just to get this close:

Watts Towers

Delightful!

Watts Towers

ADDED: Hey! The film is on line. I love YouTube. Watch this now, and let's talk not just about Rodia and his aesthetic, but the aesthetic of the filmmaker:



Thanks to commenter Bearbee for finding that. [Rodia's name is mispronounced "Rodilla" in the film, because someone who assumed it was a Spanish name spelled it phonetically, and then someone who knew it was an Italian name pronounced the Ls.]

And thanks to commenter Bissage for writing this:
(1) Sure, a humble construction worker might have single-handedly created a superb example of non-traditional vernacular architecture and American Naïve art . . . but did he ever knock-up a spacey new-age cokehead star fucker while his wife was dying from cancer?

Did he? Huh? Did he?

*pokes imaginary adversary in the chest*

No! He did not!

(I'll bet that!!! let some air out of his tires. He thinks he’s so big!)

(2) From Wikipedia: Neighborhood children brought pieces of broken glass and pottery to Rodia in hopes they would be added to the project, . . .

Sound familiar?

Kind of like the perpetual art project that is Althouse.

(3) It turns out Mr. Rodia was an Italian immigrant. Well, that explains everything! Anybody who has lived between Boston and Washington D.C. thinks of one thing immediately when they hear the words “Italian immigrant.” Here it is.

Coincidence?

I think not!

17 comments:

Chet said...

Lady, you're in a wrong part of town !

You know, those Towers used to light-up at night. I dare you to visit after dark.

Stupe said...

"But why don't you drive out to Watts so you can watch it?" --Professor Althouse

Yes, let's all put on our skates and trotsky on over.

.....Because Professor Althouse is so sure that none of us lives close by.

Nobody that reads this blog could possibly live anywhere near there, she assumes, and with good reason.

Bissage said...

(1) Sure, a humble construction worker might have single-handedly created a superb example of non-traditional vernacular architecture and American Naïve art . . . but did he ever knock-up a spacey new-age cokehead star fucker while his wife was dying from cancer?

Did he? Huh? Did he?

*pokes imaginary adversary in the chest*

No! He did not!

(I'll bet that!!! let some air out of his tires. He thinks he’s so big!)

(2) From Wikipedia: Neighborhood children brought pieces of broken glass and pottery to Rodia in hopes they would be added to the project, . . .

Sound familiar?

Kind of like the perpetual art project that is Althouse.

(3) It turns out Mr. Rodia was an Italian immigrant. Well, that explains everything! Anybody who has lived between Boston and Washington D.C. thinks of one thing immediately when they hear the words “Italian immigrant.” Here it is.

Coincidence?

I think not!

bearbee said...

He started when he was age 42 and finished at age 75.

Do you think that today somebody could create such a work without being be cited for some violation, fined and/or thrown in jail?

The Towers

Amazing dedication. Almost makes one want to weep,

ricpic said...

A man has to be good good or bad bad to be remembered.
--Simon Rodia

You made good good, Signor Rodia

michael farris said...

"did he ever knock-up a spacey new-age cokehead star fucker while his wife was dying from cancer?"

No alas. How many of us have? Many may be called, but so very few are chosen.

Mrs. Moselle Charloma said...

Gee, I can't imagine why Mr. Rodia is so obsolete and failed as an artist.

Could it be the location in which he chose to exhibit his project ?

I imagine, had he placed it in Beverly Hills, his career would have gone quite differently.

Location is everything !

Larry said...

I grew up in Southern California.

My recollection is that the towers were his home.

I also recall that the city told him to tear it down because he had no permits, they are unsafe yadayadayada.

Seems like he (or somebody on his behalf) took the city to court, with the outcome that if the city could knock one down, he would have to tear them all down.

The tractor lost.

ricpic said...

Location! Location!

The voice of the yenta is heard in the land.

Ann Althouse said...

Larry, the towers are in what was his backyard. The foundation of his house is still there, but it burned down some time ago.

And yes, they were going to tear it down at one point, on the theory that it was structurally unsound, but the tractor they used to try to pull it down lifted halfway off the ground without pulling it over.

bearbee said...

Bud Goldstone, then a young aerospace engineer, saw a puzzle. He did the math, declared the towers sound, and a "load test" was performed with a hydraulic cylinder and a winch truck.

LA Times article on the Towers

Miss Pernissa Gluey said...

Can we move on to more substantial matters, of consequence, like...

....who's on the underwhelming cover of the much-anticipated September Vogue, which just hit newstands, as we speak....

The World is coming to an end. When Vogue Magazine can't get it together to put out a decent September edition, you know we have hit rock bottom !

Ruth Anne Adams said...

What kind of documentary film maker doesn't get the name of his subject correct?

jeff said...

Well,after you all pop over and see those towers, swing on by Lucas, Kansas and check out the Garden of the Gods. All sorts of relgious and political "art". Plus last time I was there you could still see the artist's arm thru the window of his tomb. Can you get that in Watts? I didnt think so.

blake said...

Do you think that today somebody could create such a work without being be cited for some violation, fined and/or thrown in jail?

Pearl Fryer, after a fashion.

Henry said...

Do you think that today somebody could create such a work without being be cited for some violation, fined and/or thrown in jail?

I had a friend who created outdoor artwork in the manner of Andy Goldsworthy.

At one point the police tracked him down because someone thought his artwork was the production of a satanic cult. He wasn't arrested.

AJ Lynch said...

"Watts" tower?

Is this part of our alternative energy solutions?