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Santa Monica Assesses Iconic Chain Reaction Sculpture


By Lookout Staff

June 28, 2011 – The Civic Center’s chain reaction sculpture will be off limits while engineers determine whether the 26-foot-tall iconic art work made of chain link could pose safety issues.

The sculpture of a nuclear mushroom cloud by Pulitzer Prize-wining political cartoonist Paul Conrad was fenced off Monday while an independent structural engineering assessment is conducted.

The assessment comes after City building officer Ron Takiguchi observed children and other members of the public climbing and interacting with the 20-year-old sculpture, which is made of copper tubing over a fiberglass core. The sculpture’s internal frame is made of stainless steel and rests on a concrete base.

“Takiguchi was not able to ascertain the structural integrity of the work based solely on visual observation,” City officials said in a statement. “However he did observe a number of issues of concern due to the deteriorating condition of the sculpture.”

Takiguchi found that “many of the fasteners which attach the copper tubing chain to the fiberglass core are missing or not fully imbedded, and some exhibit severe corrosion,” the statement said.

The City decided to fence off the sculpture after an interdepartmental group of staff members met to review the findings, officials said.

“The City is committed to the works in its collection and has clear policies regarding how to handle art in the case of deterioration and issues of public safety,” officials said.

The work -- which was last assessed in 2004, cleaned and repaired -- will be reviewed by an independent structural engineer along with a qualified arts conservator, who will recommend how best to ensure the sculpture is structurally sound.

Conrad’s heirs will be notified of the situation. Conrad, who made President Nixon’s infamous enemies list, died last September at the age of 86.

"Chain Reaction" was narrowly approved by a 4 to 3 vote by the City Council in 1990 after a two-year process and after the Beverly Hills Fine Arts Commission turned it down.

Paul Conrad attended a number of City meetings when the issue was debated, recalled Jerry Rubin, who with Roger Genser, who is now on the Landmarks Commission, led the campaign to approve the controversial sculpture.


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