Around the Void I
San Sebastián, 10/01/1924-San Sebastián, 19/08/2002
31.5 x 46.5 x 36 cm
Monogram: the initials EC intertwined (on the reverse)
Third quarter of the 20th century
Acquired in 1981
The sculptor Eduardo Chillida, a native of San Sebastian, started studying architecture in Madrid in 1943, although he soon dropped out in order to focus on sculpture. Nonetheless, architecture remained a constant reference throughout his career. His stint in Paris began in 1848, when he met the Madrid-born painter and sculptor Pablo Palazuelo, who became a close friend and exerted a major influence on him. In 1951, Chillida returned to his hometown and created the bulk of his oeuvre there. In 1958, he won the grand prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennial, just one of many national and international awards that he has earned throughout his life, confirming him as one of the most renowned artists from the second half of the 20th century. The essentialist nature of his creations led him to work with prominent thinkers like Martin Heidegger and Emil Cioran, and poets like Max Hölzer and Jorge Guillén. It also led authors like Gaston Bachelard and Octavio Paz to write about him.
Carrying on the sculptural tradition in iron started by Picasso, Julio González and Pablo Gargallo, his first work in iron, which was reviewed by Gaston Bachelard in his 1956 text "Le cosmos du fer", revealed an aggressive language of violent expressiveness which evoked the artisan, vernacular world of ironmongers, the forge and fire, and seemed to take its forms from traditional farm tools or even ancient instruments of torture. However, his creativity turned them into poetic, metaphysical masterpieces. A hallmark of his works is a profound sense of the material, as Bachelard pointed out, which allowed him to develop a versatile, complex formal universe. Indeed, although iron clearly defined his earliest creations, he gradually added in steel, wood, alabaster, concrete, terracotta and granite to create a veritable polyphony of materials, shapes and spatial experiences.
His early works in iron, which appeared in 1951, showed a close relationship with spatialist creations, and Chillida carried a recollection of geometry, which consistently served as the backbone of his works, as a true quest for structure, even in the pieces most closely resembling gestural Informalism. His early development in the 1950s led him to make calligraphic drawings and sculptures, the latter with uneven, linear meanderings in space crafted using a procedure of cutting and twisting a slender ingot, actions which imposed extraordinary knowledge of the material, its shaping possibilities and its artistic value. In 1960, he began to use wood carved following the old craftsmanship of shipwrights or builders of typical Basque farmhouses, in the guise of thick beams from the series Abesti gogorra, although in an earlier series, Anvil of Dreams, he had used wood in the same way to craft the pedestal onto which the iron elements were nailed, which was an indispensable part of the pieces. It was common for Chillida's works to be made in numbered sets which explored different approaches and experiences on similar motifs. The less aggressive presence of wood also came with a thickening of the metal ingots, leading to the appearance of a kind of sculpture which strove more to occupy the space, to settle in it, than to question or attack it. A short though exceedingly beautiful series made wholly in 1963 was Modulation of Space, whose resolution through curved twists that dramatically embraced the empty space further developed several aspects of the typology of his earlier masterpiece, Anvil of Dreams X (1962).
Shortly thereafter, in 1964, the sculptor began another of his main series called Around the Void, which was made entirely of steel, although it was shaped by pieces of widely varying sizes. Of the five numbers comprising the series, two of them -IV and V- are monumental and meant for public space. In Around the Void I, just as in other numbers from the same series, one can detect the influence of wooden sculptures, since both I and IV (1968) and V (1969) lack curves in the manipulation of the ingots, which seems to indicate an effective encroachment of rectilinear wooden sculptures into the world of iron and steel, in contrast to the exaltation of curves in Modulation of Space. However, the overall movement of these sculptures wraps in a circular fashion around that empty space mentioned in the title, which also signals the enveloping movement. Yet the tentacular curves appear again in numbers II and III. There is a solemnity in Chillida's sculptures and a rootedness of their dense material presence in space that turn them into creations that reflect more calmly than his earlier works on the nature of artistic space, which the material body integrates in its own limits, anchors in the enveloping space and establishes itself in a metaphysical place. That place, or "leku" in the Basque language, was hinted at by Chillida even in some of his titles and may be taken as one of the constants in his poetics. Heidegger's thinking contained in the text "Art and Space", which the philosopher published in 1969 along with several of the sculptor's litho-collages, was very close to Chillida's creative interests. [Javier Viar]
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