Portrait of a Basque warrior called Odysseus

This sculpture by Jorge Oteiza is one of his famous empty boxes. It represents the second stage, and complements another similar work held at the Museum of San Telmo, San Sebastian, although it is of a considerably larger scale than the works handled by the sculptor up till then. The work weighs some 1,500 kg and was conceived as homage to the Basque warrior Odysseus. Although it is true to say that Odysseus was Greek, geographically speaking, Oteiza identified him as the spirit of the proto-historical Basque hunter, as a Basque warrior. This is an abstract work of sculpture with a tremendous symbolic meaning for the author. It comprises a series of black steel plates, which are arranged at right angles, leaving empty spaces within. Some plates are closed, opaque, whilst others are open, with openings, making it possible to contemplate the inner part of the work. This sculpture reflects the author"s ongoing concern for the de-occupation of space, the significance ofnothingness. Oteiza defined these empty boxes as impressive closed spaces, straight prisms, geometrically straight voids, timeless, labyrinth traps. The author started investigating along these lines in 1957 approximately. In Sao Paulo he presented a series of Empty Constructions in sheet iron. The titles of the works give an idea of the theoretic approach adopted by Oteiza: active de-occupation of space; empty construction; chain of voids, etc. These empty boxes comprise empty cubes which feature variants derived from the openings in the sheet iron planes. The simpler articulations, with the joining of two trihedrals, give rise to the metaphysical boxes. With all this, around 1958-1959, Oteiza finalised his experimental process of deoccupying space. The Odysseus was created in 1975, taking some earlier parts as references, such as Homage to Mallarmé (Experimental conclusion 3) of 1958. The sculpture for the Citadel was installed on 23rd October 1992, and was furthermore the first public sculpture by Oteiza to be installed in Pamplona. The work was originally to be installed in the Queen Sofia National Museum and Art Centre in Madrid, however instead it was installed in the Museum of Navarre in 1991 and, the following year, it was moved to its current location in the Citadel of Pamplona, after having been exhibited at the pavilion of Navarre during the Universal Exhibition of Seville in 1992. The original work, on a smaller scale, is currently held at the Jorge Oteiza Foundation Museum in Alzuza.

José María Muruzabal