Saturday, August 06, 2011

Art in Anaheim: Sculptor John Edward Svenson

1970 Downtown Anaheim, Home Savings 

Near a busy sunlit intersection in Anaheim dominated by the sounds of traffic and the occasional air-brake hiss of city busses, a young child is going for a joy ride with a trio of dolphins. His arms outstretched like a rodeo bronc buster, the youth seems barely capable of keeping his seat, as the creatures slip over and below the waves of an imagined sea.

Plaster presentation model for "Child on Dolphin," 10" high.
John Edward Svenson's sculpture celebrating the joyful spirit of childhood has enhanced the southwest corner of Harbor Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue (one mile north of Disneyland) for over forty years.  The bronze cast was commissioned for Anaheim's Home Savings of America branch in 1970, to accompany Millard Sheets' brilliant tile mosaic depicting the early years of Anaheim history.  Through his association with the Sheets Studio from the 1950s through the early 1970s, Svenson produced more than twenty sculptures for Home Savings and the Ahmanson Corporation all over Southern California.

1970, the original full-scale plaster pattern in Svenson's Studio.


Whenever I walk downtown and encounter the sculpture, I'm always drawn in by the pleasing flow of its shapes and the illusion of motion.  More idealistic than realistic, the piece has a magical "far away" quality that I like.  It seems to exist in a completely different world from its urban surroundings.

Chase Bank now owns the building and the artwork, and sadly the reflecting fountain has become an unkempt planter with the addition of a scraggly bougainvillea and a large rock resting on the fountain's original nozzles.   Someone (probably well intentioned) placed plastic pots of flowers into the basin at some point, but the plants have long since died and dried up, and the pots have become just more litter among the trash tossed in by people passing by.

Besides the obvious neglect and lack of stewardship on the part of the current owners,  there is no apparent signature or credit given to the artist, who still lives and works today from his studio in Upland. (Perhaps John Svenson's name is buried somewhere beneath all that landscaping bark?)

A beautiful new book "Exploring Form: The Life and Sculpture of John Edward Svenson" by the artist's son David is now available and is an enjoyable way to become re-acquainted with Svenson's amazing body of work.  Wouldn't it be fantastic if the city of Anaheim and Chase Bank would restore the fountain and Svenson's sculpture with the care and respect that it deserves?

UPDATE!  Art in Anaheim (Part Two): Sculpture Finally Gets Some Love!



Kevin--it's is so amazing that you did this post! On wednesday of last week....I finally...after years of passing this structure (I'm a big fan of the muralists for these banks ( Millard Sheets/Susan Hertel/Denis O'Connor) and parked my car and photo-documented and took some general measurements of this structure and surrounding entry plaza with the fountain(...for a future project........)I was sad to see the fountain not working, and that the complex wasn't kept up with pride like it once was. I looked about the fountain to find an details on the artist........I almost fell over when I saw your current post!!!! I get worried that these banks and other structures with public art are gonna start disappearing.....

thepicklebarrel said...

True. I too have always marveled at the artistry of the original Home Savings structures and decor...truly 'temples' of money.

The take-over by Chase is just another example of the homogenization of America, especially among the ranks of the corporate world. What used to be driven by corporate pride and a war of taste has sadly become
a mad-dash to the middle of the road.

Just look at KFC (one time tasty red-striped Kentucky Fried Chicken), K-Mart, McDonald's, etc. These corporate businesses spent lots of time and money, hiring industrial design stars such as Raymond Loewy and Sid Bass to forge unique visual corporate identities.

Now, it seems like ALL of them look on this visual ID as a liability. In defiance of their history, they have cast off the carefully crafted color palates and logos for generic fonts and 'out of the tube' color choices.

Union 76 is a perfect example...The neat crispy orange and blue rotating 76 balls high above their service stations have been tossed in favor of awkward blued-red with near-black numeral, flat square signs...yuck.

I really hope that the former Home Savings buildings and decor fixtures get some TLC and protection as far as demolition of their exteriors.

This is yet another great post, Senior Kidney! thanks for keeping the torch of appreciation well lit!!

Capt. Tomorrow said...

Gee,I don't know if Chase could afford to restore the fountain. After all, the government did have to give them BILLIONS to "bail" them out.

thepicklebarrel said...

...actually, looking at the sculpture again, if that dolphin stops short, that kid is screwed!

Major Pepperidge said...

I've always admired the old Home Savings murals, and when my grandma would take me to the bank with her she would let me stand there for a few minutes to take it all in. I think the one in Encino was a Millard Sheets example.

thepicklebarrel... amen! I saw an exhibit years ago (I don't even remember the theme); there was a full-sized Union '76 ball right at floor level, lit up. People would actually go up to it and hug it!!

Mr. Tiny said...

I LOVE your blog! I just drove by this bank the other day. The statue in particular got me to thinking about this song.

David said...

Someone needs to clean out the clutter and turn the water back on.

Christopher said...

We are so transient. It's a beautiful work that has a part of someones soul in it and it gets treated as disposable. Not much more than a creative waste basket.

I was about to say more, but thepicklebarrel said it nicely.

After your post, If I lived near by I would maintain it as a volunteer. Chase willing.

Good post.

JennySRP said...

that would be ideal. it is a beautiful piece.

Mike Sommer said...

The Corporate ideal is a doug heap, and their idea of civic beautification is a cesspool.

Even the insides of these once beautiful banks are being obliterated, by false partitions and a Martha Stewart color palette. .... "Vomit"

CoxPilot said...

Keven: In our town, we now have a zoning rule that will not allow any sign more than 6 feet high unless it is part of a building facade. ALL businesses were given 5 years to change, and they all waited until the last month to do it. The town now looks a lot cleaner, and there are no high-rise signs to crap up the place. This zoning rule also included moving all power and phone lines to underground. A major example was the removal of the giant KFC rotating striped chicken bucket, and replaced with a cleaner more modern version, and includes the face of the Colonel.

After all the logos and signs were changed, our town reported an INCREASE in sales taxes. This increase was tracked by asking people their zip codes, and it was found that half was from visitors.

Not all new is bad.

Adam said...


This is a great post. Would you allow me to cross-post it at as a guest post?

Anyone interested, please be in touch as we work together to learn the history of the art and architecture of Home Savings and Loan, and preserve these remarkable urban landmarks.

Kevin Kidney said...

Hi Adam,
Yes! Please feel free to repost this on your site (which is wonderful, by the way). There may be some good news coming that relates to this sculpture and I will keep you informed. Thanks!

Keith Relkin said...

Love the attention you are giving to this beautiful work, its history and its current state of neglect. Hope it makes its way to someone caring in the PR department at Chase...

Keith Relkin

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Great blog article. I thought you might want to know that I specifically credited and linked you to my own blog article on Downtown Anaheim. Thanks a bunch!

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