The communion of spirit and matter governed the creative concept of Jorge Oteiza with an intensity rare in the history of modern and contemporary art, and this dialectical tension between form and emptiness, between nature and abstraction, would determine the evolution of Basque sculpture to the present.
Being the guiding principle of Oteiza’s plastic research the unemployment (not the occupation) of space, making present the absent form (call it soul or enigma), it is understood that he achieved it in a manifest way when the subject was properly religious. Because, as he himself said in reference to his important sculptural group for the façade of the basilica of Arantzazu : “The apostles and the virgin (Mercy) empty themselves to put their hearts in others”.
The conflict between the mortal body (which persists in its earthly existence) and the soul (whose inertia is to escape from the prison of matter) is expressed in these religious figures in a singular way.
Setdart Subastas is putting out to tender a Pietà de Oteiza, dated 1987 (from a plaster made by the artist in 1969), which can be linked to the sculptures of the Arantzazu sanctuary. Conceived as a study for the realization of “La piedad” found in the basilica, both pieces, although different from each other, show how Oteiza makes use of an experimental figurative sculptural language, reduced to its minimum expression, eliminating physiognomic features and dominated By the emptiness inside By creating an idleness of matter itself, it exemplifies the dialectic between full and empty that we have been talking about. A resource that became a constant throughout his artistic production.
Oteiza made Basque sculpture transcend beyond regional and national limits, but at the same time laid the foundations for an art rooted in the local area and, at the same time, with enormous international projection to develop in the Basque Country. Thus, for example, Chillida’s sculpture, without emulating Oteiza or responding to the same formal interests, nevertheless shares a similar concern to explore the intrinsic qualities of matter, its density and hardness, as well as an interest in making it dialogue with a concrete space, with nature, trying ways to shape what is lacking in it, to make visible the mysteries of life and the cosmos, what is unknowable to us.