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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

Robert Graham

Robert Graham (1938-2008)

Born Mexico City, August 19, 1938
Died Venice, California, December 27, 2008
Education San Jose State College, 1961-1963
San Francisco Art Institute, 1963-1964

Award & Coin Design

2006 "Spirit of California" Award
2003-present American Jazz Museum Award
Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award
"Lo Maximo" Award, Homeboy Industries
2001 Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award
2001-present Carousel of Hope Award
1997-present The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival
The Latin Jazz Award
1994-present The California Governors’ Award for the Arts
The John Huston Award for the Artists Rights Foundation
1985-present National Medal of Arts, presented by the President of the United States
Spirit of Liberty Award, presented by the People for the American Way
1984 Olympic Silver Dollar for the United States Mint ($4 million minted)

Robert Graham (August 19, 1938 – December 27, 2008) was a sculptor based in the state of California in the United States. His monumental bronzes commemorate the human figure and are featured in public places across America.

Graham was born in Mexico City, Mexico on Aug. 19, 1938, to Roberto Pena and Adelina Graham. Roberto Pena died when his son was six years old, and the boy, his mother Adelina, his grandmother Ana, and his aunt Mercedes left Mexico and moved to San Jose, California. Robert Graham began his formal art training at San Jose State University where he was taught by artist Frederick Spratt.He continued his studies at the San Francisco Art Institute in California, finishing in 1964. Robert married his first wife Joey Graham in 1959, they have one son Steven, born in 1963. Within five years he had one-man exhibitions of his sculpture at important contemporary art galleries in Palo Alto, Los Angeles, New York City, London, Cologne, and Essen, Germany. He, along with Joey and Steven lived in London for a period before settling in Los Angeles in the early 1970s. His first solo exhibition in a museum was at the Dallas Museum of Art in 1972. Since then he has had dozens of one-man shows, including several at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Graham's first major monumental commission was the ceremonial gateway for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, for the occasion of the 1984 Olympics. He also designed the commemorative silver dollar for the event. The gateway featured two bronze torsos, male and female, modeled on contestants in the games. The gateway was a major design element of an Olympiad noted for its lack of new construction. To the surprise of many, the nudity of the torsos became an issue in the media

Graham used a range of materials and scales in his work. In the 1970s Graham created very small wax sculptures (circa 4" - 10 cm), depicting sexual congress. His 1986 monument to the boxer Joe Louis is a 24' bronze fist and forearm. He has created hundreds of nude figures and groupings in intermediate scales.

He married actress Anjelica Huston in 1992 and they resided in an unusual dwelling in Venice, California. Huston refused to move to the Bohemian area unless Graham built them a fortress to live in. The result was a giant, windowless structure behind an opaque 40-foot fence.

Graham made a cameo appearance in Huston's movie, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, as the Venezuelan general near the beginning of the film standing on the deck of the ship. Wes Anderson mentions in the movie's commentary that Graham has some aspects in common with Steve Zissou.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced on May 28, 2008 that Graham would be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. The induction ceremony took place on December 15, 2008 but he was too ill to attend. His son Steven accepted the award on his behalf as he was inducted alongside 11 other legendary Californians.

Graham died, with his family at his side 12 days after the ceremony on December 27, 2008.[1] His funeral was held at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, which has bronze doors that Graham created for the cathedral.His remains are interred in the Crypt Mausoleum of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

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