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Oteiza was born the 21st of October,1908 in Orio, Gipuzkoa, in the Spanish Basque country. His influence on contemporary sculpture is due not solely to his extraordinary body of work but also to his extensive philosophical writings. In the 30s and 40s he traveled throughout the Americas contributing significantly to the local artistic discourse by bridging conceptually the production of Modern sculpture with archeology and pre-Colombian civilizations. Back in Spain, Oteiza's commitment to art as a way to promote a political conscience, even in times of Franco, made him a controversial figure. In 1959 he considered his sculptural labor done. He continued his work as an educator and philosopher, founding many schools dedicated to three-dimensional and architectural exploration. Oteiza held a turbulent relationship with Chillida, ten year his junior, whom he influenced and in the '60s they worked together to create the group GAUR, which sought to develop a true Basque aesthetic language.Oteiza has also contributed significantly to architecture and monumental public art, still visible in numerous churches, public buildings and squares throughout Spain, such as the project for Plaza Colón in Madrid and his religious statuary at the Basílica de Arantzazu.

 

In 1992 Oteiza donated his complete works to the government of Navarra, which founded the Oteiza Foundation to preserve his oeuvre and extend his legacy. Oteiza expressed reservations towards Frank O. Gehry's architectural proposal for Guggenheim Bilbao and, when asked to mount a solo exhibition in the said museum, he refused. In spite of this, and during their meeting in 1997 for the inauguration of the museum, both Frank O. Gehry and Richard Serra expressed their admiration for Oteiza, the latter considering him the best sculptor alive. Oteiza died in April 2003, at the age of 95, a few days after the opening of the show at Haim Chanin Fine Arts.

 

Among the numerous honors Oteiza received are the first prize in the Spanish National Competition (1949), a Diploma of Honor in the IX Triennial of Milan (1951), the National Architecture Prize for a project at Capilla de Santiago (1954), the First Prize in the Competition for the design of Colón Square in Madrid, the Gold Medal in Fine Arts from the Spanish Ministry of Culture (1985), the Príncipe de Asturias Prize in the Arts (1988), named Doctor honoris causa in Arts and Philosophy (1992),vsner Prize (1996), and the Medal of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid (1998). Oteiza's work has been exhibited in such prestigious institutions as Gres Gallery, Washington, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museum of Contemporary Arts, Bilbao, Musée d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Modern Art Museum of Troyes, France, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (commissioned to do a sculptural piece), and MACBA, Barcelona (1998).

 

 

 

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