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Cuts by Spaniard supremos

Trisha Bhattacharya, May 04, 2014 20:00 IST
The sculptures were built with many metal pieces, often using scrap metal united with this welding technique that was never used with artistic purposes before.

Sculptures bring to life the imagination and creative impulse of their creators. The influences of the artists’ times, the prevalent art and culture, their perceptions, along with ideas arising out of life, have brought about creations, enrapturing the attention of many worldwide.

This art, held together by an artist’s passion and inspiration, has sprung up creations of incredible appeal through generations. Spain has produced some brilliant artists who have been sculptors and painters, creating revolutions in this art form. Spanish sculpture forms like the avant-garde, the abstract and the modernist style possessed characteristics that have left indelible impressions. Although there are many artists from Spain who popularised Spanish sculpture, we will discuss only a few names here.

Carmen Fernandez, sculptor-curator from Museo Reina Sofa, a museum in Spain, shares some important names associated with Spanish sculpture. He says, “Spanish avant-garde sculpture had two important protagonists during the inter-war period: Pablo Picasso, who was one of the greatest figures behind the modern sculpture, and Julio Gonzlez, too. From the late 1920s, both artists worked in a unique technique called ‘autogenous iron welding’. This technique represents the Spanish contribution to avant-garde sculpture in the 20th century.”

Using this, the sculptures were built with many metal pieces, often using scrap metal united with this welding technique that was never used with artistic purposes before. Julio Gonzlez and Pablo Picasso’s works, making use of this technique, are part of the modern language of Cubism.

Julio Gonzlez, who was from Barcelona, is considered to be the father of iron sculpture and one of the most important artists in developing the 20th-century avant-garde movement. Picasso and Julio Gonzlez were close friends, and they worked together from the late 1920s to the early 1930s, when Gonzlez personally made some Picasso’s works as La Femme au jardin, which is in the museum’s permanent collection, and is a great example of sculpture built in iron.

Julio Gonzalez, in his early years, also worked in metalwork and painting. Since 1925, he was devoted exclusively to sculpture, while also making important production drawings of sculpture.

Post-war sculptors like Eduardo Chillida and Jorge Oteiza are heirs of this kind of sculpture from the avant-garde period. Chillida’s work is closely bound up with nature, and Oteiza’s one more, with a type of sculpture imbued with the concept of abstraction with a constructivist trend. David Smith, an American sculptor linked to Abstractionism, also confessed to be Julio Gonzlez’s heir, whom he had personally met.

An input to the avant-garde Spanish sculpture of the 20th-century was the sculpture linked to the surrealist object definition. Salvador Dal, Joan Mir and Oscar Domnguez, three painters who lived in Paris, were essential to the surrealist object definition. The first of them, Dal, who invented el objeto surrealista de funcionamiento simblico (the surrealist object of symbolic functioning), was an essential figure. His work, Portrain of Joella, at the Reina Sofia Museum, is important because it is unique.

The second, Joan Mir, starting with the collage technique, introduced poetical suggestions to this new language and broke with traditional techniques. Joan Mir also worked in Paris and was a pioneer. After the end of the war, he conducted another type of imaginative sculpture that departed from the ways of Picasso, Arp or Ernst. Finally, the Canary painter Oscar Domnguez used, founded and manufactured objects using the Dal concept, but pursued his own world of meaning and was able to produce an important number of high-quality surrealist objects.

Another important sculptor was Alberto, who also made paintings like Julio Gonzalez; he worked in Spain and during the years of the avant-garde, only travelled to Paris for the installation of the monumental work showed outside of the Spanish Pavilion at the International Fair of 1937.

Spanish sculpture and its styles were associated with different time periods. However, there was some overlapping too, like Modernist Spanish sculpture, in cases, merged with elements from avant-garde and abstract styles. Discovering many more names, masterpieces and techniques from the world of Spanish sculpture would be of interest to any admirer of art.

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