Robert Graham was the preeminent sculptor of Los Angeles. On the occasion of the 23rd Olympiad in 1984, he was commissioned to erect a massive gateway topped with his athletic neo-classical beauties at the Memorial Coliseum downtown. It would be the start of an incredible career creating monumental public works across the country––including the FDR, Charlie Parker, Joe Louis and Duke Ellington memorials––reaching a sensational finale with his monolithic bronze doors at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in 2002. Graham’s naturalistic figures––mostly nudes, mostly women––in clay, bronze, resin and fiberglass is much sought after by collectors and friends, including Brad Pitt and Ed Ruscha. In 1995, when attempting to lure his new bride Anjelica Huston
to live with him in the then crack-crazed Venice Beach, home to his studio since the 70s, Graham designed and built a house for them both on Windward Avenue. For 17 years this C-shaped fortress stood alone, protecting a courtyard oasis for its two inhabitants while they left the compound each day to work elsewhere. That is until 2008 when, shortly before his death, Robert (Bob to friends) and his son Steven (in the role of architect and project manager) completed the circuit with a future-forward steel-and-glass studio adjoining the 90s home. Full of eccentricity and whimsy (a north-facing second story perfectly frames a building designed by Bob’s friend Frank Gehry), the 10,000-square-foot space is a triumph of engineering and design, and only too briefly served as the creator’s daily creative hub and showroom. On the south side––Bob’s side––a huge area consisting of only two storeys with 40-foot-high ceilings enabled the artist to construct large-scale models and paint canvases the size of cars, while a staggered loft-style aerie provided him with a comfortable perch, a nerve-center from which to guide his works-in-progress. Art pieces from Bob’s friends, including Tony Berlant, Billy Al Bengston and Ed Moses, pop up all over the studio, while a David Navros fresco mural decorates a balcony overlooking the interior courtyard.
Today, in the second part of NOWNESS's Venice Beach exclusive, renowned architectural photographer Tim Street-Porter takes us inside the studio to discover the world Robert Graham sculpted for himself. Yesterday we took a peek inside Anjelica Huston's side of the building—read the story here