Mayor Tom Bradley, calling the removal of nude sculptures from a new Los Angeles federal building an "arbitrary action" that impinges on constitutional rights to freedom of expression, has requested that the two figures be reinstated immediately.
In a letter made public Monday, Bradley asked Edwin Thomas, regional administrator of the federal General Services Administration, to restore figures of a woman and a baby immediately and to hold a public hearing on their removal.
"I urge that you reconsider the arbitrary action and reinstate the removed pieces," Bradley wrote on Friday. "The reinstatement should remain in effect until the issues have been reviewed and it has been determined whether or not any violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 has occurred."
The untested act is designed to protect artists from unauthorized alteration of their work. In asking for a hearing, Bradley is following a precedent set in 1984, when a GSA regional administrator in New York sought to remove Richard Serra's "Tilted Arc" from a federal plaza because it blocked public access. The piece remained in place until after a hearing.
The Los Angeles figures, key components in a sculpture by artist Tom Otterness, were removed from the courtyard of a new federal building Dec. 2 at Thomas' direction, shortly after he received a complaint from Rep. Edward R. Roybal (D-Los Angeles).
Roybal, who heads the congressional subcommittee that oversees the GSA, contends that the nude figures are appropriate for a museum but not for a federal building. The building, at Temple and San Pedro streets, will be named for Roybal when it opens in January.