Constructed between 1921 and 1954/55 by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia, the Watts Towers have become an iconic monument to the city. The collection of 17 structures, which Rodia himself called Nuestro Pueblo (Our Town), were erected by hand and made of steel rods wrapped in wire mesh and coated with cement. Embedded into nearly every inch of the environment are shards of ceramics, bottles tiles, shells, and other scraps—often brought to Rodia by others in the neighborhood.
Owned by the State of California and managed by the City of Los Angeles, The Watts Towers are a National Historic Landmark and one of the most widely recognized works of art to come out of Southern California in the last century. In October 2010 LACMA entered into a partnership with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs to oversee the day-to-day care and maintenance of Watts Towers and to develop a comprehensive plan for its long term preservation. Daily maintenance involves monitoring the loss of decorative elements and the movement of cracks and fissures; monitoring the movement of the Towers and foundations and the environmental conditions at the site; and documenting the state of preservation and structural stability of the individual sculptures. LACMA is currently working with the Department of Engineering at UCLA to collect structural response (acceleration and strain) and environmental data (temperature, wind speed and humidity) to better understand all the factors contributing to the deterioration of the Towers and the reasons underlying the failure of past interventions.
LACMA continues to raise awareness and funds for the preservation of the Towers and wishes to thank the following for their generous support:
James Irvine Foundation
Directed by William Hale
We are grateful to be able to share this 1957 film about Watts Towers and Simon Rodia.
Produced by Rembrandt Films, William Hale and Antonio M. Vellano.
Run time: 12 minutes
Remastered 2010 by Over the Moon Productions
Last year, LACMA began a partnership with the City of Los Angeles’s Department of Cultural Affairs to work toward the long-term preservation of Watts Towers. Lucas Casso, an intern with LACMA’s Department of Curatorial Planning has been conducting interviews with artists and others who have been involved in or influenced by the Towers...
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Alison Saar, a sculptor who is a native Angeleno, over tea and coffee at Ray’s on LACMA’s campus. I wanted to ask her about the lifelong relationship she has had with the Watts Towers. She comes from a family immersed in art: Her mother, Betye Saar, is also an artist and her father, Richard Saar, was an art conservator. The family’s connection with the Towers began with her maternal great-grandmother, a resident of Watts, and continued with her mother, who saw Simon Rodia’s work in progress, before being passed along to Alison and even now to Alison’s children...