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Vandals at UCLA Topple 4 Sculptures

Times Staff Writer

Four outdoor sculptures by Venice artist Robert Graham have been toppled from their pedestals and damaged on campus at UCLA, the university said Wednesday.

Carol Stogsdill, the university’s director of media relations, confirmed that the pieces were vandalized and that three sustained extensive damage in the incident, believed to have occurred late Monday or early Tuesday.

The four works are in the Rolfe Courtyard, along with six other Graham sculptures that were not damaged. Stogsdill identified the damaged pieces as “Lori,” a female torso; and three pieces that are part of Graham’s Duke Ellington memorial. The worst damage, she said, was to a figure in that group, which appeared to have lost an arm.

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The incident occurred the night before a California Coastal Commission hearing in Costa Mesa that heard objections to installation of another work by Graham, a female torso that had prompted protests in Venice. The commission acted to allow the new work to go up.

In an interview Wednesday, Graham said that he found out about the UCLA vandalism late Wednesday afternoon from Roy Doumani, who had donated the pieces to UCLA. Doumani was visiting Graham’s studio when he received a call from UCLA’s chancellor’s office.

Graham expressed anger about the damage, as well as the fact that he and Doumani were not notified earlier by UCLA. “I’m mad,” he said. “From what I can see these things had to be pulled down with chains, they weigh up to 1,800 pounds -- they are big pieces.” Of the UCLA campus police, he said: “Where were they that night?”

Doumani called the incident “very upsetting. It’s public art that should be respected. It’s there for people to enjoy it, and if you don’t enjoy it, at least respect it.”

Earlier this year, controversy erupted over plans to place the Graham torso in Windward Circle in Venice. Six Venice residents filed appeals with Los Angeles seeking to block the sculpture. Some said it was a poor fit for the neighborhood; others objected to its nudity.

The city approved the sculpture, and the subsequent appeal was filed with the Coastal Commission. Graham said he could not draw any direct connection between denial of the appeal and the vandalism, but called the timing of the damage a “strange coincidence.”

Venice resident John Davis, who objected to placement of the sculpture because he said it would block his view of the Santa Monica Mountains and a public park, attended the Coastal Commission’s public hearing. He said: “I don’t see how anybody could draw that connection. If you are going to do something in this regard it is through the legal system.”


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