Sale 12487
Christie's Small is Beautiful: The Art of Sculpture
Online 6 - 20 October 2015

‘These blocks of earth without edges, like the rocks of Cuzco, reveal the Organic geometry that resides in the sculptor’s work. It is a geometry that, more that inscribed in the material, it is intrinsic to the earth itself. The lurras are blocks which, like mud, fold in on themselves from their weight, their moist gravity. If a piece of paper cannot fit between the large blocks of the walls of Cuzco, Chillida’s lurras erect spaces. If the edges of the Cyclopic stones of Cuzco create a linear dynamic in the wall’s immense volume, the lines cut into the fired clay conform sculptural spaces’ (K. de Barañano, exh. cat., Chillida: 1948-1998, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina, Madrid, Sofía, 2000, p.40).

Through the physical construct of the majestic Lurra G 220, Chillida brings forth the material essence of terracotta. One of the most important works of the series, this warm, totemic sculpture embodies the artist's investigation into the very inscape of sculpture. Chillida sought materials which he felt were imbued with meaning. The Lurra series focuses on the elemental terrain of Spain: rich chamota, or terracotta, with the rustic earthen patina of the fired clay intrinsically linking this work back to its landscape.

Kosme de Barañano draws visual links in Eduardo Chillida’s works to a prehistoric legacy of form. He identifies the majestic tactile surface of the baked block of earth with an ancientness of form, accentuated by the subtle incisions carved into the terracotta, which stresses an almost archaeological investigation into the raw reduction of forms. He also saw that the asymmetrical logic of the notches appears like the irregular Incan brick walls of Cuzco, a medieval tomb, or a crenelated fortress.

Sculpted by hand and tooled with the artist's knife, Chillida's physical treatment of the terracotta distinguishes itself from the polished refinement of a potter’s wheel. Instead, The Lurra series celebrates the variable nature of the material: terracotta, which once transformed by the fire of the kiln, results in a series of unique works, each displaying subtle variations in colour and tone. The unique quality of Lurra G 220 is defined by the decisive line of the artist's knife carving out the clay. Barañano reiterated, 'For Chillida, to sculpt is to impose oneself on the given material (to put oneself in its being, not to superimpose oneself) and without losing its nature as material, to give it life, a breath, a being on a new level, an artistic level... cutting the earth like a wound that will scar in the kiln - surrounds the piece, circling and chasing it like Ariande's thread' (quoted in ibid., p. 40).

The organic geometry of Lurra G 220 is articulated by the space around the terracotta block. Speaking of this quality, Chillida quantified, 'space must be conceived in terms of plastic volume, instead of being fixed with the help of lines onto the imaginary surface of the paper. I am unable to imagine it other than in three dimensions. That is the way form acquires its structure. Form springs spontaneously from the needs of the space that builds its dwelling like an animal in its shell. Just like this animal, I am also an architect of the void' (E. Chillida, quoted in ibid., p. 62).

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