‘The sculptures do not attempt to encompass the interior space, they are blocks of transparency in which the form becomes space and the space dissolves in oscillations of light’ (O. Paz, quoted in K. Baranano (ed.), Chillida 1948-1998, exh. cat., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1998, p. 86).
Modelled from a solid block of alabaster, Elogio de la Luz XVII (Eulogy of the Light XVII) is an extraordinary example of Eduardo Chillida’s sculptural practice. Executed in 1972, this work belongs to the series of alabaster sculptures entitled Elogio de la Luz, initiated in 1965. The minimalist elegance of Elogio de la Luz XVII reveals a powerful luminous radiation, which originates from within the alabaster, in opposition to the darkness that lies in the fissures, which cut the sculpture in three parts. Indeed, these incisions conceal the sculptural interior in such a way that they invite the viewer to penetrate and carefully inspect them, by walking around and becoming part of the artwork. Chillida carved the alabaster so meticulously that an incandescent natural light would break through the stone and warmly illuminate the space. Its elegant articulation recalls Chillida’s previous series Elogio de la Arquitectura (Eulogy to Architecture) of the late 1960s. Just as Elogio de la Arquitectura pays tribute to architecture and space, Elogio de la Luz XVII is a eulogy to light and material. Other works from this series are held in prestigious collections worldwide, such as Fundacion Banco Santander (Elogio de la Luz XVI) and Colección Ferreiro (Elogio de la Luz XV).
After a trip to Greece in 1965 with Jacques Dupin, a French poet and art critic, Chillida became interested in the luminous qualities of the marbles of ancient Greek temples. As Kosme Maria de Barañano stated, ‘the Greek architects see architecture in the light. They view light as a material for constructing space, as another dimension of architecture. Thus we understand their almost open temples’ (K. de Barañano, ‘Homage to Eduardo Chillida’, Homage to Chillida, exh. cat., Guggenheim Bilbao, Bilbao, 2006, p. 76). In the Eulogies to Light Chillida is particularly fascinated by the unique interaction between light and form. The use of alabaster marked an important metamorphosis in Chillida’s practice, from iron to material brilliance: his sculpture turned into solid splendour. As Chillida remarked: ‘I had been deeply imbued in darkness, far from Greece. Alabaster provided a possibility of an encounter with light and architecture’ (E. Chillida, quoted in K. de Barañano, ‘Homage to Eduardo Chillida,’ Homage to Chillida, exh. cat., Guggenheim Bilbao, Bilbao, 2006, p. 72). Therefore, alabaster represented both an exclusive alternative to iron and a solution to the question of defining space. As Octavio Paz noted: ‘the sculptures do not attempt to encompass the interior space, they are blocks of transparency in which the form becomes space and the space dissolves in oscillations of light’ (O. Paz, quoted in K. Baranano (ed.), Chillida 1948-1998, exh. cat., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1998, p. 86).