Forged in steel, a material synonymous with the artist's oeuvre, Eduardo Chillida's monumental Gurutzeak I reveals a sublime moment of aesthetic and spiritual equilibrium. 'Gurutze' means cross in Basque, the symbolism of which Chillida had explored on previous occasions, as well as in several lithographs. It can be understood in the context of his most important body of work of the commemorative steles, the totemic symbol of which is both conceptually and manifestly central to the artist's output. Having already explored the symbolic meaning of the stele in Ilarik (1951), Chillida returned to this subject in the years preceding his death, engaging this ancient form to communicate a fundamentally civic message and one associated with the communality of northern Spain. As Reinhold Hol observed: 'With his sculptural creations Chillida has found a language of European origin, which is understood throughout the world and which expresses axioms of universal meaning' (R. Hol in Chillida: Questions and Space, Tasende Gallery, La Jolla, California, 1986, p. 56)
As a sculptor Chillida allows the character of his material to inspire and mould form and, like an architect, he uses the properties of his material to define the spaces of the three-dimensional composition. Through this methodology he authors an abstract language founded upon opposites: the interaction between solid and void strikes a raw tension between the colossal mass of his structures and the force of gravity itself. Gurutzeak I perfectly illustrates this interaction in juxtaposing the familiar masses of the double cross motif with the three regular yet unequal voids that appear to support their silhouette.
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