By Jim Smith
Sculptor Robert Graham died Dec. 27 from undisclosed causes. He was 70 years old and had been ill for about six months. Graham lived with his wife, Anjelica Huston, on Windward Avenue. He was internationally known and admired by art connoisseurs.
Among his works are the 25-ton bronze doors on the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and the huge headless sculptures that stand atop the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Graham also created the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC., the Joe Louis Memorial in Detroit, which he designed as a 24-foot fist and forearm, and a Duke Ellington memorial in New York City, among others. A small model of Graham’s Ellington statue can be seen in the reception area of Danny’s Restaurant on Windward Avenue.
Contrary to the obituary in the New York Times, Graham’s mother was American and his father was Mexican. As a youth, Graham used his father’s name and was known as Bob Peña.
While Graham was nearly universally admired in international art circles, he was much more controversial in Venice. When the city of Los Angeles approved his headless woman sculpture in the Venice circle there were 48 appeals to the California Coastal Commission.
Graham and Huston lived in a former bank building on Windward Avenue that had been expanded into a blank-walled fortress. He recently completed constructing an even larger studio next door. Community complaints were made that he had trashed the historic colonnades that had fronted the previous building. The colonnades had once stretched the entire block of Windward.
According to Wikipedia, Huston refused to move to Venice after they were married “unless Graham built them a fortress to live in. The result was a giant, windowless structure behind an opaque 40-foot fence.”