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Art not Bombs

The sculptures of Eduardo Chillida and Jorge Oteiza manage the remarkable feat of taming emptiness.


Chillida's 'Elogio del horizonte'.

It is remarkable how a small nation can fill such giant shoes in the world of contemporary sculpture as the Basque Country does through artists like Chillida, Oteiza and a dozen others.

On first arriving in Spain one is struck by their oversized creations in public places, giving airs of freshness and modernity to a country no longer dark. It is later that we realise these are the same grand masters from that minuscule province whose work we find in Berlin, Paris and many other places of infinitely larger import. And these two men are contemporaries, though I have no idea if they were friends or foes but most certainly having had to be rivals, at times coming very close to magically imitating each other – in the eyes of this objective viewer at least.

I wouldn’t call Oteiza’s huge, fragmented metal puzzle pieces monumental just because of their size, but they come close in many aspects to Chillida’s equally large objects, looking like instruments or tools with which to repair chariots of behemoths or gods. And none of these creations are gratuitous, dead, but somehow dynamic and functional, ready to be picked up in a gargantuan way. It is why Heidegger, a pretty formalistic cerebral operator, told Chillida that his sculptures were by themselves a place, not simply a creation with which to fill a place. With most of us wholeheartedly agreeing with the old German Nazional-Socialismus glorifyer, but only this once…

Sculpture being three dimensional this is about the conquest of space, nothing to do with NASA and the astronauts. Like Henry Moore, both Basque genius artists creating works managing to be futuristic and Palaeolithic at the same time, like the forms of Stonehenge would be with holes right through their core, opening them up.

I would call Basque sculpture… the magical taming of emptiness.

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Published: Dec 14 2011
Category: Iberoblog, Featured, IberoArts
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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