Angelic Duet

Background information

1979, James Russell. 36'H x 7'W x 6'D. Broadway and 1st St.
Taking full advantage of its highly visible location at the southwest corner of Broadway and First Street, this distinctive sculpture transforms an ordinary downtown intersection into a gateway marking the northern entrance to the heart of Broadway. As one of the city's tallest works of public art, "Angelic Duet" has a size and scale compatible with the adjacent nine-story State Office Building. The sculpture is composed of two mirror smooth undulating forms constructed of highly polished stainless steel. Each vertical element creates distorted and warped reflections of the surrounding human and physical environment. Russell described his work, which is similar to his earlier 12' "Voyagers" at California State University at Long Beach, as "achieving harmony through contrasts...The movements are not conflicting but are harmonious with the balance and rhythm together giving the sculpture life." In the title, "Angelic" refers to the sculpture's location in the "City of the Angels" and "Duet" refers to the two vertical abstract forms.

At the conclusion of a nationwide competition that attracted 714 entries, Russell's proposal was selected by a regional art panel to be one of three finalists. Models of the final proposals were placed in the building's lobby and visitors and workers were invited to submit comments. Some people were concerned about spending public funds for art at a time when the State of California was cutting back funding for education and social services because of Proposition 13. Others commented specifically on Russell's proposal by expressing concern that the reflective surface would create a traffic hazard. However, many liked his design and felt the cost should not be the standard by which all things are judged and valued. After receiving approximately 150 responses on the three proposals, a panel composed of Sim der Ryn, from the State Architect's office, Endora Moore from the Visual Arts Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts and John Outterbridge, Director of the Watts Tower Art Center, selected Russell's design. The $60,000 commission from the State Architect was the largest ever awarded up to that time under the State of California's "Art in Public Building Program."

The Jessop Steel of California Company, the Angeles Steel Services Company, and the Alameda Tank Company were involved in different phases of fabricating the work. In July 1979, "Angelic Duet" was dedicated at ceremonies attended by Secretary of State March Fong Eu and then State Senator Alan Sieroty, who initiated the legislation that funded the sculpture. The following year, "Inspirit," another work by Russell, was installed in the lobby of the State Office Building.

The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, March 1998.

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