Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002)
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Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002)

Lo profundo es el aire, Estela VII

Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002)
Lo profundo es el aire, Estela VII
inscribed with the artist monogram
cor-ten steel
43½ x 6½ x 6½in. (110.5 x 16.5 x 16.5cm.)
Executed in 1988
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York.
Tasende Gallery, La Jolla, California.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
E. Saxon, 'Folds in Steel' in Art in America, no. 10, October 1990, New York (illustrated, p. 194).
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Chillida in New York, November 1990-January 1991, no. 1 (illustrated, p. 17).
Tokyo, Galerie Tokoro, Chillida, June-July 1992, no. 7 (illustrated, p. 16).
Fuerteventura, Proyecto Montaña Tindaya, Eduardo Chillida, December 1996, no. 13 (illustrated, p. 175).
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Lot Essay

This work is registered in the archives of the Museo Chillida Leku, under number 1988.007.

Soy, más, estoy. Respiro.
Lo profundo es el aire.
La realidad me inventa,
Soy su leyenda. !Salve!

I am; I am here and now.
I breathe the deepest air.
Reality invents me.
I am its legend. Hail!

(Jorge Guillen, 'Más Alla' quoted in Affirmation a Bilingual Anthology 1919-1966, Oklahoma 1968, pp. 30-31).

Lo profundo es el aire, Estela VII is part of an important series of works that take their name from a line in a poem by Jorge Guillen a poet from the generation of '27 and close friend of the artist. Guillen's poem Más Alla' includes the line 'lo profundo es el aire' in a verse that seems to articulate the symbiotic relationship between existence, time, material reality and the seeming nothingness of the air. As Chillida must have recognised, it is a verse that describes perfectly the central aesthetic of his own work with its preoccupation with articulating the almost mystical relationship between space and material.

In the series of works named Lo profundo es el aire, Chillida explored questions of time, space and material in a variety of very different media that included, steel, alabaster and granite. Each of these works deliberately established a visual dialogue between the solidity, texture and rigidity of the material and its infusion by empty space in such a way that a lyrical contrast and almost fluid penetration of one by the other was expressed by the work as a whole.

Lo profundo es el aire, Estela VII is a stele - an ancient form, traditionally a column or pillar-like tombstone, that marked a gravesite or was erected as a means of paying homage to a person's life and achievements. Although often unspecific to any particular individual, Chillida's stelae retain their commemorative nature in the sense that they are vertical metal sculptures which through their verticality and physical articulation of space clearly assert a human presence. The vertical column of the stele indicates the human, for in nature, there are no straight lines; the straight line only exists in the human imagination and through a human's interaction with the world.

Like a monument to the human will, Chillida's stelae stand proudly vertical piercing the infinite emptiness surrounding them. In this Estela the focal point of the work is at the apex of the column where the sculptor has articulated a dwelling-like internal space whose dark interior is interpenetrated by the light and space of the exterior world. His aim, as the title of this series of works suggests, was to infuse the profound depths of this dense mass of solid material with the airy lightness of space. 'Space?' Chillida once observed, 'Sculpture is a function of space. I don't mean the space outside the form, which surrounds the volume and in which the form lives, but the space generated by the form, which lives within it and which is more effective the more unnoticeably it acts. You could compare it to the breath that swells and contracts forms, that opens up their space - inaccessible to and hidden from the outside world - to view. I do not see it as something abstract, but as a reality as solid as the volume that envelops it.' (Eduardo Chillida 'Aphorismen' cited in Chillida, exh. cat., Berlin 1991, p. 118)

The largest of this impressive series of works on the theme of Lo Profundo es el aire series was to have culminated with Chillida's vast unfinished project in Tindaya, a mountain on the island of Fuerteventura. There, Chillida hoped to extend this sculptural concept into the natural world by creating an enormous open space in the interior of the mountain. It was to be a 50 square metre cube pierced with two openings, one for sunlight and another for moonlight, each admitting light to the heart of the mountain by either day or night. Symbolic of the meeting place between solid and void, this spatial cube would, he hoped, provide a neutral meeting place for people to congregate, detached from the burden of their cultural and religious backgrounds.


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