Eduardo Chillida's monumental Estela a José Antonio de Aguirre is a stunning homage to one of the foremost heroes of Spain's Basque region. José Antonio Aguirre was the first president of the Basque National Party between 1937 and 1960, and during the Spanish Civil War organized a Basque army to fight for the Republic. When in 1951 Chillida moved from Paris back to Hernani, near his birthplace San Sebastian, he started to experiment working in cast iron, a material typical of the Basque mines and which is so expertly enlisted in the present work forged over twenty-five years later. 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. The totemic symbol of the Estela is both conceptually and manifestly central to the artist's output. Having already explored the symbolic meaning of the stele in his work Ilarik of 1951 and named after the Basque word for a funeral stele, Chillida returned to this subject in the Seventies, engaging the ancient form to communicate a fundamentally civic message and one associated with the communality of northern Spain. Estela a José Antonio de Aguirre is archetypal of this celebrated achievement, and exemplifies the artist's beautiful abstract language.
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