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Sculpture takes shape at UCLA

March 02, 2006|Suzanne Muchnic | Times Staff Writer

A massive sculpture by Richard Serra -- all 42 1/2 tons of it -- was trucked onto the UCLA campus Wednesday to begin the slow and exacting process of installation on the plaza of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center.

Commissioned and purchased by philanthropist Eli Broad, the two-part weatherproof steel work is called "T.E. UCLA" and is part of the New York artist's critically acclaimed "Torqued Ellipse" series, known for merging brute force with elusive space in walk-through environments of interlocking curves.

The Richard Meier-designed Broad Center is scheduled to open Sept. 13."T.E. UCLA" was fabricated in Germany last year and remained in storage there until the site was ready. Early this year the sculpture was trucked to Antwerp, Belgium, and shipped to Long Beach. It arrived Jan. 27 and was taken to a storage facility in Sylmar. The two panels, each standing 14 feet high and curved to a width of about 28 feet, were loaded on a pair of red flatbed trucks Monday afternoon for delivery Tuesday morning. Rain delayed the process for a day, but the trucks rolled onto the campus at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The artwork's journey was over, but the drama of unloading and installation had just begun. A few tree branches had to be trimmed to make way for the trucks and their cargo. Lifting brackets were attached to the top and bottom of each panel and connected to cables suspended from a hook dangling from the arm of a gigantic yellow crane. Each panel was hoisted off the truck onto wood beams, then raised over a construction fence and lowered onto temporary supports. During the next few days, the panels will be welded into place on permanent mounts, surrounded by a bed of gravel to be covered with decomposed granite.

"T.E. UCLA" is the first public work by Serra in Southern California, but it won't be the last. The Orange County Performing Arts Center has commissioned the artist to create a towering sculpture for the arts complex in Costa Mesa that will be installed in April. Another Serra sculpture will be unveiled at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's downtown campus in June.

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