Guggenheim
Introduction

Eduardo Chillida
Advice to Space V (Consejo al espacio V)
Steel
305 x 350 x 350 cm
Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa

“To build is to create in space. This is sculpture, and generally speaking sculpture and architecture” [1]

Eduardo Chillida (Donostia/San Sebastián, 1924–2002) studied architecture in Madrid before turning to painting and finally moving to Paris to devote himself to sculpture. His early architectural training is reflected in the structures of his works, his attention to materials, and the careful planning of the spatial relations that characterize his sculptures. Indeed, Chillida conceived of sculpture as related to architecture, and left a legacy of monumental, site-specific public sculptures as well as more conventionally sized works.

With in-depth knowledge of a large number of materials, such as iron, steel, wood, plaster and stone, Chillida investigated how solids relate to emptiness, and how the interior interrelates with the exterior. His choice of materials was profoundly influenced by his surroundings and his travels. In his first sculptures, made in Paris, he opted for stone and plaster, materials which suited his studies of the ancient artworks at the Louvre, and he drew inspiration from the human figure and the forms of nature. On his return to the Basque Country in 1951, he started to use first iron and later wood and steel, materials representative of Basque tradition in industry, architecture and agriculture, and also reminiscent of the characteristic Basque landscape and what Chillida calls its “dark light”.

When the German philosopher Martin Heidegger first encountered the work of the sculptor Eduardo Chillida in 1968, an intense intellectual relationship arose between the two, centered on a topic of common interest: space. Chillida’s work spurred the philosopher to reflect upon the relationships between the concepts of art and space, and to write his conclusions in an essay. Die Kunst und der Raum (Art and Space), an artists’ book resulting from their collaboration, was published a year later, in 1969. The book, of which 150 copies were printed, contains Heidegger’s essay and the seven lithocollages made by Chillida to illustrate it. At the Basque sculptor’s request, Heidegger also inscribed the essay in his own hand on a number of stones. In the exhibition, these lithographic stones are shown face to face with Chillida’s stone slabs, whose cracks also evoke a kind of writing. With its relationship between thought and artistic production, that artists’ book forms the starting point of this exhibition, also entitled Art and Space.

The show is opened by the sculpture Advice to Space V (Consejo al espacio V, 1993). Chillida made the first studies for this sculpture in 1987 with the intention of installing it outside the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, but that project never materialized. Constructed out of enormous steel plates, this piece combines a unique lightness with an organic quality, a distinctive hallmark of Chillida’s works in steel. Like Embrace XI (Besarkada XI, 1996), which also belongs to the collection of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and is shown in this exhibition, this sculpture reflects the connection between art and nature. Advice to Space V might recall a kind of fireplace, a hollow containing fire and heat that releases a vital energy into the space around it. With this work, Chillida investigates the experience and interpretation of space.

1. Eduardo Chillida, conversation with Mario Terès, in Christa Lichtenstein, Chillida und die Musik. Baumeister von Zeit und Klang, Wienand, Cologne, 1997, p. 73; cited in Chillida, 1948–1998, exh. cat., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1998, p. 62.

Source(s): Kosme de Barañano, “Eduardo Chillida”, in Colección del Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa, Bilbao and TF Editores, Madrid, 2009.

Questions

Look closely at this sculpture. What do you see? Which words would you use to describe it? Brainstorm a list of words that are suggested to you by the piece. Afterwards, compare your list with those of other members of your group. Are they similar or very different? Talk about the words chosen by each student.

Describe the material the sculpture is made of. (If possible, the teacher will show the students a piece of steel and allow them to touch it so that they can describe its qualities.) Chillida experiments in his sculptures with many different materials and surfaces. Why do you think steel interested him as a material? Describe step by step how Chillida might have made this sculpture.¡

Some of Chillida’s sculptures were made to be set up outdoors. Imagine that this piece had been given to the town or city where you live. Which would be the best place for it? Why? Compare the different places chosen by members of your group.

Activities

Find out which are the most typical or important construction materials of the area where you live. Comment on how these materials have been used in the course of history in shipyards, farming and agriculture, and the construction of buildings. Do you know if any of these materials has ever been used to make a sculpture? Would it be possible? Students should choose one of these materials and write about what that specific material evokes for them.

Chillida’s sculptures are seen not only in museums but also in public places like parks and squares. Photograph a public space in your region. Next, make a model of a sculpture that you believe would enhance this space in some way. Describe how the chosen location would interact with the proposed sculpture.

RESOURCES

Exhibition catalogue: Artea eta espazioa/El arte y el espacio. Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, 2017

http://www.museochillidaleku.com/EN/index.html

VOCABULARY

Lithocollage: technique combining the processes of lithography and collage.

Lithographic stone: support used for lithography (printing process that consists of tracing a drawing, text or photograph on a calcareous stone).