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July 19, 2001 05:12pm
L.A. Airport Covers Nude Artwork in Brown Paper
Source: Reuters
by: Sarah Tippit

(LOS ANGELES, CA) -- Images of bounding nude men arrayed on a new floor at Los Angeles International Airport remained covered by brown paper on Thursday as airport, city and airline officials argued about whether they were suitable for public viewing.

Los Angeles artist Susan Narduli, who is well known for designing public spaces in the city, said she created the images of the buff men on commission from American Airlines more than two years ago to symbolize humankind's earliest attempts at ``flying''.

The images, part of a $275 million redesign of the airline's terminal at the world's No. 3 airport, were sandblasted into the dark granite floor after being approved by the city's cultural affairs commission two years ago, she said, noting the figures' genitals were completely obscured.

The project was inspired by her research into the earliest human attempts at flight, which showed that ``From the earliest times men would find the highest spots in their town, be it their church tower, or a cliff, they would strap on some kind of paraphernalia, wings, or a machine, and they would jump. I found that to be so heroic. That became the pivotal moment of how I began this project ... as a depiction of our aspirations to transcend our biological limits.''

The terminal's redesign includes images of clouds and planets, as well as a large window that beams sunlight around the terminal, producing colors in various places depending on the time of day, Narduli said.

AIRPORT EMPLOYEES COMPLAINED

Yet when the redesign entitled ``The Wonders of the Heavens and Flying'' was unveiled last month, several airport employees complained to management that the naked men could offend passengers. They were then quickly covered with paper.

Airport officials said they have final approval over the artwork and that it had not been submitted for approval, airport spokeswoman Gail Gaddi said.

But American Airlines spokesman Al Becker said that although the airline had been required to submit renovation plans to the airport authority, those did not include artwork, which required only the approval of the city.

City officials were not immediately available for comment. They were said to be revisiting the case after having approved preliminary sketches two years ago.

Narduli said she was disappointed that the art was so quickly covered up, especially because it had gone through a lengthy approval process.

``The thing that strikes me as so strange is that this work is not a studio project in a gallery. This is a commission by American Airlines. This has gone through all their approval processes. They have seen this project at every phase prior to completion. It's hard for me to imagine that a huge corporation like American with a significant interest making sure they have a certain relationship with the public would in any way agree to put something in a major terminal that was offensive.''

American's Becker said the airline supported the $850,000 artwork but that if the city instructed them to change or remove it they would do so immediately. ``We wanted artwork that would be pleasing to our customers and a credit to the City of L.A. and American Airlines,'' Becker said.

``We believe very deeply that Susan has done an outstanding job, that the artwork is tasteful and not in any way objectionable. But if the city in the decides it wants that artwork changed ... then we will change it.''

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