Chillida. 1948-1998 is a retrospective exhibition, consisting of one hundred and forty works that are the fruit of Eduardo Chillida’s (San Sebastián, 1924 - 2002) fifty years of artistic research and creation. The selection of sculptures and drawings includes the different materials used, allowing the presentation to be divided into three different sections.
On one side, there are quite heavy pieces, but for technical reasons pieces that weigh more than five tonnes are excluded, especially those made of steel. Another section displays the Lurrak pieces, those that stand out in this exhibition are works made with chamotte clay, consisting of a mixture of clays. And finally there are the creations on or made from paper, starting with the reliefs-collages called “Gravitaciones” -considered sculptures- to drawings, either strokes or pencil or ink marks, or produced with scissor cuts or collage. The works on paper are grouped together as another presentation within the exhibition itself, spatially justified and conditioned by conservation and illumination. This set of works on paper is emphasising the autonomous nature of these works which go beyond the idea of preparatory drawing or sketch.
The exhibition is based on the staging of the basic concepts that Chillida’s visual thinking questions and redefines. His sculptures do not solve problems of sculpturing, representation or expression, but metaphysical issues, which he formulates through matter, on concepts such as limit, emptiness, space and scale. It should be noted here that the starting point for Chillida's work -and for this exhibition- is the recovery of primitive shapes and techniques as a source or model of artistic renewal after the decline of avant-garde languages towards the end of the Forties. An example is Torso (1948). During his stay in Paris (1948-1951), Chillida develops a sculpture dominated by a sense of volume and, although it leans toward abstraction, it maintains certain naturalistic remains, such as in Yacente (1949).
His return to the Basque Country gives his work a new turn based on the exploration of new formal and theoretical alternatives that find absolute shapes in the roots of Basque culture. The traditional Basque folk tradition of forging and iron work are the privileged means which perform his experiments with matter and space. Forging allows him to work with emptiness and accept it as part of the sculpture, as in El peine del viento I (1952) or in Deseoso, (1954).
According to specialist Ina Busch, Chillida understands sculpture as a meta-process, an instrument for making space visible. At this point he links in with the aesthetics of Martin Heidegger, whose book El arte y el espacio Chillida illustrates in 1968. The artist begins a gradual turn toward radical abstraction, transforming natural references into signs. At the same time he achieves an emptiness, which is defined through senses by an open iron structure, as seen in Rumor de límites I (1958), and enables even the space to be inhabited by the spectator, like in Puerta de la libertad (1984).
Museo Guggenheim Bilbao (20 April - 29 August, 1999)