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Santa Monica, California

Chain Reaction

In one Santa Monica parking lot a mushroom cloud made of chains heralds a message of peace. 

Sentiments regarding nuclear warfare tend to run the spectrum from alarmist to vehement, so monuments like Santa Monica’s Chain Reaction which mixes whimsy with its vitriol are a welcome addition to the public landscape.

Erected in 1991, the tall sculpture is the work of political cartoonist Paul Conrad who had previously received the Pulitzer Prize for his work. Chain Reaction is a punny, 26-foot sculpture shaped like the rising mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion, save that the whole thing looks to be made of steel chains. In actuality the piece is made of molded fiberglass, concrete, and copper chain links, yet regardless of its materials it still weighs over five tons. The plaque at the foot of the work communicates the important message of the seemingly tongue-in-cheek work:

“This is a statement of peace. May it never become an epitaph.”

The sculpture is a beloved local landmark and became the first site in the city to be designated a historical landmark. In 2014 as time began to take its toll on the towering monolith it was in danger of being torn down for safety reasons. However thanks to donations and outcry from members of the public, Chain Reaction was saved and can continue to spread its message of peace to future generations.