Jorge Oteiza (Orio, 1908 – San Sebastian, 2003) is one of the most important Basque artists of the twentieth century. Self-taught, he began working in the 1920s, influenced by the avant-garde movements of the time such as Cubism and Primitivism. Keen to investigate pre-Colombian sculpture, he travelled to South America in 1934, where he remained until 1948. On his return to Spain, Oteiza won a competition for the sculptures of the Basilica of Our Lady of Arantzazu, in Oñate, Gipuzkoa. It proved a controversial project in which he tested his theories on the decline of figurative expression. It was subsequently banned by the Church and not completed until 1968.
In the fifties, while making experimental work influenced by Constructivism, Oteiza abandoned figuration altogether and began a process of the construction of the ‘void’ and the dematerialisation of mass that would take him toward a vertical and lighter sculpture: the ‘trans-statue’, in the words of the artist himself. In 1957, his research on basic geometrical volumes such as the cube, the cylinder and the sphere, and the dialogue between light and shadow, became the driving forces behind his ‘Experimental Proposition’. The project won him the Grand Prix at the 4th São Paulo Biennial in 1959. Following this recognition and at the peak of his creative powers, Oteiza decided to abandon sculpture and concentrate on conceptual and theoretical work. He declared himself a ‘metaphysical worker’. In the seventies, he returned to sculpture with small-format works made of plaster, paper, aluminium and cardboard.
A prolific writer, Oteiza took part in numerous group and solo exhibitions, such as Experimental Proposition, held in Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid, 1988; and Oteiza. Myth and Modernity, at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and New York, 2004, and at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS), Madrid, 2005. In 1988 he was invited to exhibit at the Spanish Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, and in 2007 he was included as an artist of reference in the context of Is Modernity our Antiquity? at the 12th Documenta, Kassel. His work is included in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, MNCARS, Madrid, Fundación Juan March, Palma de Mallorca, Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, and MACBA, Barcelona, among many others.