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Jorge Oteiza

(1908—2003)


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Spanish sculptor and art theorist, with strong commitment to Basque culture, born in Orio, Guipúzcoa. In 1935 he moved to South America, where he made contact with Communists and Basque nationalists exiled by the Spanish Civil War. He returned to Spain in 1948. His iron sculptures, partial and distorted geometric shapes, achieved considerable international success, but in 1959, two years after winning the sculpture prize at the São Paulo Bienal, he renounced sculpture altogether for polemics and theory. His ideas were based on the notion of art as a sacramental activity, that was the alternative to conventional religion as the answer to the problem of death. He found this in the ancient sculpture of the Andes, the characteristic funerary statues of Basque cemeteries, and the work of Cézanne, Malevich, and Tatlin. He spent much of the rest of his life distanced from the art world, even refusing to sell his early sculptures, but campaigning for a modern art museum in San Sebastian. His own project was finally rejected just as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which he opposed even to the point of threatening violence, was agreed.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.


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