Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts: A Photographic Exhibition by Seymour Rosen documents the 1962 exhibition at LACMA, the first devoted to this unique work of architecture and art.

Rosen’s photoessay conveys both the august and the intimate aspects of the towers. It includes grand, now-iconic images of the towers’ imposing skeletal frames, which seem both ancient and modern silhouetted against the sky, as well as keenly focused details, often showing the personal vision and hand of the artist. There are incised dates when Rodia began certain sections, impressions of the simple tools he used, and abstract decorative elements formed from household items. Multicolored tiles made of broken glass, crockery, and other cast-off materials give the cement surfaces a subtle, scintillating glow.

The catalogue essay, by Paul M. Laporte, provides insights into the character of Simon Rodia, a skilled construction worker with no formal artistic training. The essay also gives a detailed overview of the structure of the work and recounts the towers’ early history, including bureaucratic attempts to tear them down. This early publication showcases the towers at a crucial point in their ongoing cultural journey.

LACMA is pleased to present this historic publication online in order to further public understanding and appreciation of this extraordninary work of art and its history.




Published by LACMA, © 1962 Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Seymour Rosen photographs © SPACES—Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments, a nonprofit organization incorporated in 1978 for the purposes of identifying, documenting, and advocating for the preservation of art environments and other self-taught artistic activity.

Paul M. Laporte | Photographs by Seymour Rosen