January 20, 2019

Neighbors fight to preserve sculpture by Israeli artist in Beverlywood Park

Some Beverlywood residents are trying to prevent the proposed redesign of a neighborhood greenspace known as Circle Park that could result in the removal of a sculpture by the late Israeli artist Kosso Eloul, saying the sculpture has artistic and monetary value.

Melinda Smith Altshuler, a contemporary artist who lives in Beverlywood, is among a group of neighbors who want to preserve Eloul’s work, “Morningnight,” which was built in 1967 and sits to one side of the
grass-covered space located in the center of a roundabout where South Beverly Drive, Sawyer Street and Bolton Road meet.

The Michael Hittleman Gallery on Third Street appraised the sculpture and said it could be worth as much as $50,000, Smith Altshuler said.

Smith Altshuler and her husband, Bruce Altshuler, a lawyer, live near the park on Bolton Road. She is working with Beverlywood resident Abigail Yasgur and her husband, lawyer Joseph Lipner, to preserve the Eloul piece.

Smith Altshuler and Yasgur said few of their neighbors had ever heard of the sculptor, who was affiliated with the Israeli New Horizons movement.

“If people only knew what they have here, they wouldn’t want to take it away,” said Yasgur, a Jewish Free Loan Association employee.

The two couples, who live two doors from each other, are planning to deliver a presentation about the sculpture at the Beverlywood Homes Association meeting on Aug. 21.

Debbie Shipman, general manager of FirstService Residential, the association’s property managment  company, said whether to redesign the park was still to be determined, and the issues regarding the sculpture and the sentiments of neighbors opposed to its removal would be considered at the upcoming meeting.

“We’re taking into account all the people that have had any kind of input on it,” Shipman said, noting that the fountain sculpture has been inoperable for years.

“Whatever [Eloul] designed way back when isn’t even there anymore,” she said. “That’s just the base of it. The fountain parts aren’t there anymore. They deteriorated.”

Smith Altshuler claimed that the association intentionally allowed the artwork to fall into disrepair. “They did their best to let it look ugly so people would complain about it,”she said.

Eloul’s piece is made of gunite, a concrete mixture, and is encircled by a fence that was added sometime after it was installed. There is no plaque or sign with the name of the piece or its creator.

About 1,350 families live in Beverlywood. The affluent neighborhood is heavily Jewish, with Orthodox families living within walking distance to synagogues in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

Eloul, born in 1920 in Russia, was educated in Israel. He designed the sculpture around the time he served as an artist-in-residence at Cal State Long Beach, from 1965 to 1966. He died in 1995 in Canada.

Eloul’s work has been exhibited around the world, and one of his sculptures sits on the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

The two couples fighting to keep the Beverlywood sculpture have kept Eloul’s widow, Rita Letendre, an artist in Canada, abreast of the situation, hoping for an outcome that honors her late husband’s artistic legacy.

“He’s not quite as well known,” Yasgur said, “but he has a place in art history.”n