The sign outside the Watts Towers Art Center | Still from "The Watts Towers Arts Center" ab s11 episode image

Preserving the Watts Towers

 

Artbound's editorial team has reviewed and rated the most compelling weekly articles. After putting two articles up for a vote, the audience chose this article to be made into a short-format documentary.

Deemed outsider art, folk art, and other similarly nondescript and fluid labels, the Watts Towers do not necessarily fit the bill for a standard definition or understanding of art. But no matter what they are called, the Towers remain a cultural jewel of Los Angeles. And within the cracks and structure of these Towers lies an unfolding story and scientific mystery of sorts.

In 1921, Sabato Simon Rodia started with his home — he mosaicked the façade of his house, and some of the nearby walls. He used glass 7-Up bottles, sea glass, shells, broken plates, toys, tiles, rocks, and whatever else he could get his hands on.

And then he continued. By 1955 he had built seventeen structures, with three of those towers being most notable (the tallest at 99.5 feet high). Beginning with steel structural bases, Rodia enveloped these structural cage-like elements with concrete cement and imbued them with decorative knick-knacks and found treasures -- all while free-climbing up and down the towers unprotected, without scaffolding or a harness. And with this, the Watts Towers were built.

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The Watts Towers Arts Center

The Watts Towers Arts Center was founded by artists and educators in the 1960s and has been a beacon of art and culture in the community for decades. This episode features the work of artists including Noah Purifoy, John Outterbridge, Betye Saar, Charles White and Mark Steven Greenfield.

Light & Space

In a world filled with noise, distractions and chaos, a number of artists seek to push the boundaries of perception and experience. The Light and Space movement of the 1960s explored minimalism with a uniquely Californian spin — with a keen attention to the interaction of light and space. Crucially, the materials these artists relied on to create these perceptual experiences emerged from the postwar aerospace industry and its advances.

The New West Coast Sound: An L.A. Jazz Legacy

Growing up amongst jazz legends within the deep musical traditions of Leimert Park, drummer Mekala Session and his peers grapple with how to preserve this rich legacy—striving to carry forward the tenets that took root in the work of Horace Tapscott and his Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. This is the story of Los Angeles’ emerging generation of community-focused black musicians.This episode of Artbound was produced in partnership with dublab and Storyform.

CURRENT:LA FOOD

In October of 2019 the city of Los Angeles through the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Institute of Contemporary Art organized a city-wide exhibition of public art and events based around the theme of food. Each artist interpreted a different aspect or issue surrounding food or food systems in the city from climate change, to food access, civic engagement to waste and recycling. Activating public parks throughout the city, artists created works to spark conversation about what it means to live in Los Angeles and how to work together for a sustainable and hopeful future.