Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sound Architecture: Wind Comb


BILBAO.- In 1977 three steel sculptures by Eduardo Chillida (San Sebastián, 1924—2002) were installed in San Sebastián’s La Concha bay. Together the trio of sculptures form Comb of the Wind, one of the Basque sculptor’s most significant works. Photographs, plans, works on paper and sculptures show how the project developed from the sculptor’s initial idea to the definitive installation of the finished work. Integrating Chillida’s artistic beliefs and the contribution of industrial workers, architects and engineers, the project, begun in 1952, culminated in this landmark public sculpture, one of the finest and best known in the region.

Eduardo Chillida Juantegui (1924–2002) was a Spanish Basque sculptor notable for his monumental abstract works. He received the prestigious Wolf Prize in Sculpture in 1985.

Before becoming a sculptor he had been the goalkeeper for Real Sociedad, San Sebastián's football team.

Eduardo Chillida (San Sebastián, 1924 – 2002), Peine del Viento. San Sebastián. 1976. Photo Català Roca. Museo Chillida-Leku.

Chillida's earliest sculptures concentrated on the human form (mostly torsos and busts); his later works tended to be more massive and more abstract, producing many monumental public works. Chillida himself tended to reject the label of "abstract", preferring instead to call himself a "realist sculptor".


At their best his works, although massive and monumental, suggest movement and tension. For example, the largest of his works in the United States, "De Musica" is an 81-ton steel sculpture featuring two pillars with arms that reach out but do not touch. Much of Chillida's work is inspired by his Basque upbringing, and many of his sculptures' titles are in the Basque language Euskera. A large body of his work can be seen in the Basque city, San Sebastián (Donostia), including El peine del viento (The comb of the wind) installed in the (often stormy) sea in La Concha bay at San Sebastian.

Water sprays at the Wind Comb. Photo Jesús Uriarte 

His steel sculpture "De Música III" was exhibited at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in the UK, as part of a retrospective of Chillida's work.

There is an outdoor sculpture garden dedicated to his work in Hernani, Spain, near San Sebastian.

The Wind Comb was never officially dedicated when it was finished. My father said, “I actually don’t care. It’s been dedicated by the wind, the waves, people walking… why does anybody have to come to officially dedicate it?” So they never made that official dedication. They just removed the fences and people started walking over there and from that moment, it became a place. But in 2007, on the 30th anniversary, with my father having already died, we decided to dedicate his project. In the end, it was the project itself that convinced the people of its own worth. Everybody feels that they are part of this project. It has become the emblem of the city, the image of San Sebastian. If you do a project and people don’t like it, they will always question it, but if you make it right, people will embrace it.

Installation of one of sculptures. Photo Jesús Uriarte    

Eduardo Chillida’s abstract work echoed a vision of the world as a reality of dualities and oppositions, based on the concepts of rhythm, rumour and music as vibrations of the spatial experience. Peine del viento I (Wind Comb I) is a reference to “the opposition between iron and air”, an example of what the poet Octavio Paz called “universal opposition”, identifying the language of Chillida with the world of opposites described by the pre-Socratic Greek philosophers. Other contemporary critics, such as Vicente Aguilera Cerni, made the connection between Chillida and the Basques relationship towards the atavistic and the mythological: “The overwhelming power of their language stems from national traditions, myths, legends and Basque people’s spontaneous symbolism.”

The sculptor’s work is linked to deeply rooted concepts of the world, which he himself openly described as the basis of the universality of an artistic language immersed in the concepts of time, space, matter and spirit. In Peine del viento I he deals with one of his essential concepts, limits: space is defined by various intersecting planes limiting what was, before the presence of the sculpture, a mysterious void. In 1970, Chillida’s description of the concept was: "The limit is the real protagonist of space, just as the present, another limit, is the real protagonist of time. […] The spaces I work with are virtual or inaccessible."

Carmen Fernández Aparicio