Retrato de un gudari llamado Odiseo, 1975

Portrait of a Gudari named Odysseus, 1975
Sculpture, 45 x 52 x 47 cm

In 1972 Jorge Oteiza resumed his sculptural activity recovering previously made works and creating variations on them. The complete name of this work is Portrait of a Gudari Named Odysseus, Variation on Homage to Mallarmé, 1958. Oteiza constructed this steel piece as a variation on his 1958 work Homenaje a Mallarmé. It is one of his well-known empty boxes, here conceived as a tribute to the Basque soldier. Although the mythical figure of Odysseus (Ulysses to the Romans) originated in ancient Greece, Oteiza identifies him as the spirit of the prehistoric Basquehunter. Gudari, which means soldier in the Basque language, is a figure with a strong symbolism in the Basque social context. Oteiza created different versions of the work (three small versions and two large ones), all in 1975.

While Oteiza had already begun to distance himself from block sculpture and open interstitial spaces in his figurative works in the 1940s, it was in the mid 1950s that this Basque sculptor began a systematic investigation into the square and cube as essential units. The mark of Mondrian, Malevich and Cézanne can be recognized. Since then, the active disoccupation of the space became the focus of his formal investigations, with boxes and cubes that connect interior and exterior spaces of great complexity. Rather than absences of solid mass, Oteiza’s volumes invoke the void as a metaphysical postulate. According to the sculptor, in this work, which he calls a “totemic sculpture endowed with an open and vigilant void,” the arrangement of the empty space evokes Malevich’s painting White on White. The title’s reference to Mallarmé refers to the investigation of nothingness as a gateway to the Absolute pursued by the French poet.

Technical details

Original title:
Retrato de un gudari llamado Odiseo
Registration number:
Oteiza, Jorge
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Object type:
Forged steel
45 x 52 x 47 cm (height x width x depth)
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation. Gift of Leopoldo Rodés
© Pilar Oteiza, A+V Agencia de Creadores Visuales
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