Jorge Oteiza and the “Negative Aesthetics”: Towards an Understanding of the Sacred in Abstract Art

By Jon Echeverria-Plazaola.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Modernity is based on secularization processes that ended up by proposing a conception of the sacred that became autonomous from traditional religious languages. In this sense, according to M. Eliade, the sacred is manifested nowadays in hidden forms, meanings and intentions that are apparently “profane”. There are many examples of abstract artists that consider their images as expressing some kind of sacredness. Most of these images are created through processes that involve disfiguration. These processes are considered by M. C. Taylor as the reappearance of the iconoclastic impulse that is in the core of the European reformist movements and of the negative theology. This serves us as a basis to hypothesize that arts and aesthetics are crucial to study the transformation of the sacred in secularized societies. Our objective in this paper is to study how the sacred is expressed in abstract art by focusing on the Spanish artist Jorge Oteiza (1908-2003). The analysis of his work and his theoretical proposal of “negative aesthetics”, based on his interpretation of the negative theology, help to develop a theoretical framework of a “new morphology of the sacred” in abstract art.

Keywords: Abstract-art, Sacred-profane, Jorge Oteiza, Negative-aesthetics, Negative-theology, Iconoclasm

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 11, pp.153-166. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 11.774MB).

Dr. Jon Echeverria-Plazaola

Postdoctoral Fellow, Fakultät GestaltungInstitut für Zeitbasierte Medien, University of the Basque Country (UPV- EHU), Berlin, Spain

Dr. Jon Echeverria-Plazaola is Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU), and visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at Universität der Künste in Berlin. His research project is funded by the Department of Education, Universities and Research, Basque Government (“Programas de ayudas para formación y perfeccionamiento de personal investigador”). His fields of interest and research include aesthetics, abstract art, religious art and mystical thought (particularly, the influence of mystical thought in many abstract artists). He has published articles on abstract art in different academic journals and has edited a book on Jorge Oteiza´s work. His last book is titled “Intrusos en la Casa. Arte Moderno, Espacio Sagrado” (Fundación-Museo Jorge Oteiza, 2011).


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