Jorge Oteiza (Orio, 1908 - San Sebastián, 2003) is one of the most relevant Spanish artists of the 20th century with his highly personal work. Oteiza's sculptures examine the relationship between volume and space brought about by early avant-garde movements, particularly Constructivism, whilst also sharing a distinct penchant for abstraction, spirituality and humanism with other artists. His career begins in the Escuela de Artes y Oficios de Madrid (The Madrid School of Arts and Crafts) where he produces and exhibits his first sculptures, influenced by Jacob Epstein, Dimitry Tsaplin and Alberto Sánchez. In 1935 he travels to Latin America, where he exhibits in various cities while also working as a teacher and carrying out research into Pre-Columbian sculpture. This period also sees him write some of the essays that are key to understanding his artistic output.
Following his return to Spain in 1948 he embarks upon the ongoing experimentation with what he himself defines as “the aesthetic nature of the Statue as a purely spatial organism” whilst also tackling the sculptures of the Sanctuary of Aránzazu, an enormous project planned in 1953 and carried out between 1968 and 1969. In this project religious motives are depersonalised, the figures emptied, but as they open out into space they become full of spiritual content. In 1957 he receives the International Sculpture Award in the IV São Paulo Art Biennial and also edits a catalogue entitled gExperimental Purpose, 1956-57h, which outlines the main theoretical principles behind his work - in the text Oteiza considers the progressive role of the void and silence found in his sculptures. Between 1958 and 1959 they convey the previous formulations in his work; for instance, the emptiness of the cube in his Cajas vacías, perhaps the best representation of the conclusions from his experimentation. From these conclusions he develops new essays that culminate in his pre-minimalist compositions. During this period he also associates the void found in his work with the cromlechs from Basque prehistory, and, as he reaches the experimental conclusion that,hit is no longer possible to add sculpture, as expression, either to man or the cityh, Oteiza relinquishes his sculptural work.
In the Sixties he focuses on aesthetic and linguistic research, particularly Basque culture, and becomes actively involved in the political and social cause. He later returns to sculpture between 1972 and 1975. The exhibition closely follows Oteiza's experimental processes with the aim of transmitting the formal and conceptual evolution of his sculptures, drawings and collages, many of which are presented publicly for the first time.
Museo Guggenheim, Bilbao (October 08, 2004 - January 23, 2005); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Nueva York (June 30 - September 18, 2005)