Layers | KCET
Think about it, from the fountain that slithers more than a hundred feet down steps to the foot of Downtown L.A.'s Public Library, to the nude bronze athletes in front of the Coliseum, to the bronze doors of the L.A. Cathedral - with its dozens of icons of the ethnicities that worship in the Catholic archdiocese. Graham put a lot of what he'd seen in L.A. on those doors. Toward the end of his life, Rodin put his whole life into the Gates of Hell, there's even (the best place to see it is at Rodin's Paris museum) a small version of The Thinker near the top.
A lunchtime walk I take occasionally takes me from Alexander Calder's giant orange sculpture on Bunker Hill, thorough small versions of Graham's nudes inside Wells Fargo Plaza, down the library steps and over to Grand Central Market. A couple of months ago the city finished renovating an open plaza on Hill Street across from the market. It's not a monument in the strict definition but it's definitely an open space with layers of history. Graham told me in an interview a few years ago that the most vivid memories of his hometown, Mexico City, where the 17th and 18th Century plazas and their bronze sculptures, along with palaces like Chapultepec Castle and the Palacio de Bellas Artes.
What I like about this new Hill Street Plaza is that in its own way it oozes layers of history much like those Mexico City squares built, renovated and changes over 400 years. The builders of the plaza on Hill Street left a concrete and brick retaining wall that possibly a hundred years ago buttressed some of the hotels and businesses on the teeming street from the earthen push of Bunker Hill.
Simple benches group next to a garden of succulent plants. That long, 15 foot high concrete wall is the highlight though. Its masons mimicked the rock layers that get geologists hot and bothered. And there are objects embedded in the concrete that pose questions for the viewer. A rusted clamp hangs like a slave shackle from an equally oxidized pole embedded in the concrete. A metal tube juts out diagonally from the wall, severed useless long ago.
The plaza had been mostly a hangout for older men taking swigs from paper-bag covered bottles and others pushing filled shopping carts. On the day I visited a couple of backpack-carrying, shorts-wearing tourists read the didactical signs posted nearby. A man wearing a new Dodgers cap puffed on a smoke, waiting. And on the other side, a group of four men - one with a paper bag - laughed away, looking for their friends.
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