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Robert Graham Biography
Sculptor Robert Graham was born in Mexico City on August 19th, 1938. His father died when Graham was only six–years–old, and Robert Graham was raised by his "Three Mothers," his mother, grandmother, and aunt. At the age of nine, Robert Graham moved to San Jose, California with his mother and grandmother, and gained his American citizenship in 1952.
After serving in the US Air Force, Robert Graham began his formal artistic training at San Jose State University in 1961. Robert Graham continued to study art at the San Francisco Art Institute, where Graham soon turned from painting to sculptural modeling. Completing his degree in 1964, Robert Graham´s figurative sculptures commemorated the pinnacle human form. Robert Graham´s sculptures which first earned him a reputation, were hyper–realistic beeswax figurines of naked girls inside Plexiglass boxes. These early nude Graham sculptures had a voyeuristic eroticism and compelling ambiguity. Within five years, Robert Graham had one–man art exhibitions featuring his nude sculptures at important contemporary art galleries in Palo Alto, Los Angeles, New York City, London, and Cologne.
It was not long before Robert Graham´s concentration on the nude, and an exceptional talent for making moulds persuaded him to abandon narrative to explore variations on a single body cast in bronze. Robert Graham began to make bronze statues in which Graham represented the female nude both partially and whole, mobile and static, and painted or patinated.
From 1967–1971 Robert Graham lived in London, before he finally settled in Los Angeles. In 1972 Robert Graham had his first solo museum exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art, and in 1978 Robert Graham had an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the first of many.
Robert Graham's first major monumental sculpture commission was the ceremonial gateway for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, for the occasion of the 1984 Olympics. Robert Graham also designed the commemorative silver dollar for the event. Robert Graham's most famous bronze monument, The Olympic Gateway features two bronze–cast torsos, male and female, modeled on contestants in the games. To the surprise of many, the nudity of the bronze torsos became an issue in the media.
It was a logical progression for sculptor Robert Graham to continue to create public monuments, assured by the success of the 1984 Olympic Gateway. Among Robert Graham´s other notable public monuments and commemorations, all cast in bronze, are the Joe Louis Memorial in Detroit (1986), the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington DC (1997), the Duke Ellington Memorial in New York (1997), and the Charlie "Bird" Parker Memorial in Kansas City (1999).
Some of Robert Graham´s most notable public and private sculptural achievements include: Dance Door at the Los Angeles Music Center (1978), the Four Crocker Fountains in the Wells Fargo Center Plaza, Los Angeles (1983), and Torso created for Rodeo Drive and the city of Beverly Hills (2003).
In 1992 Robert Graham married actress Anjelica Huston, and Robert Graham designed their home and studio in Venice, California.
Robert Graham was inducted into the California Hall of Fame on December 15th, 2008. Robert Graham died 12 days after the ceremony on December 27, 2008. Robert Graham´s funeral was held at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, which was incredibly appropriate as Robert Graham designed the Cathedral´s great bronze doors in 2002. Robert Graham´s remains are interred in the Crypt Mausoleum of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles.
Select Museum Collections: Dallas Museum of Fine Art, Dallas Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Los Angeles County Museum of Art The Museum of Contemporary Art, LA Museum of Fine Arts, Houston The Museum of Modern Art, New York Museum of Modern Art, Paris National Gallery of Art, Washington DC Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Victoria and Albert Museum, London Whitney Museum of American Art, NY