In recent years, Salcedo has emerged as one of the most well known Colombian sculptors and installation artists. All of her pieces are informed by her country’s tormented history, and her reconceptualization of visually processing trauma associated with human rights violations has been applied to international events, as well, and has garnered her international accolade.
“I am a Third World artist. From that perspective–from the perspective of the victim, from the perspective of the defeated people–it’s where I’m looking at the world” — Doris Salcedo, in a segment about her work on Art 2:1.
The thread running through all of her pieces is mourning, modes of remembrance, and ways of honoring both individual lives and communities struggling with loss. Besides a single steel sculpture in the contemporary art gallery of the Harvard Art Museums, I had not seen Saucedo’s work in person until I visited her fantastic retrospective at the Gugghenheim Museum this July. The pieces that particularly struck me included Plegaria Muda, Atribilarios, Thou-less, and A Flor de Piel.
To account for her significant contributions in public art installations, a theater in the Guggenheim is screening a short film about her pubic art projects. Of these, I was most intrigued by Shibboleth, a piece Salcedo installed in the Tate Gallery in London in 2007 to call attention to how legacies of racism continue to undermine modern society (the title refers to words which when pronounced by individuals can be used to differentiate between ethnicities and have been the basis of genocides and hate crimes throughout Western history, most recently the “Parsley Massacre” in the Dominican Republic during which soldiers executed individuals supposed to be Haitian on the basis of their pronunciation of the word perejil). Essentially, the piece was a large crack in the museum’s floor that gave the appearance of earthquake wreckage. Shortly after the Tate building had opened, she proposed the intervention of creating a rupture in the floor, deliberately damaging the infrastructure of a recently finished exorbitant construction project. Even after the work was “taken off view” (i.e. the crack filled in) in 2008, the work’s afterlife continues as scars of the crack remain on the floor of the Tate, serving as a reminder of prior trauma.
Finally, I deeply admire Salcedo’s commentary (both in the documentary screening at the Guggenheim and in the Art 2:1 segment) that reflects her respect for the architects in her studio, her collaborators and assistants. Surely most viewers of large-scale installations must understand that many artists, but particularly installation artists, are not producing their iconic works solo, but Salcedo’s qualification of her works as “collective efforts” and her elaboration of the extent of collaboration insists upon recognizing all of those involved in her art works, even if the pieces remain attributed solely to “Doris Salcedo” rather than “Doris Salcedo and her Studio.”
To keep learning about Salcedo, I suggest reading the NYTimes Review of the Guggenheim retrospective that provides some context for her works. Additionally, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago has fantastic descriptions of several of the pieces on their website, such as this one about Plegaria Muda.
Famous for his easily recognizable stylized body proportions of heavy-set figures, Botero is perhaps the most widely known Colombian artist. The largest collection of his work is on display at the Museo Botero in Bogotá, and his hometown Medellín houses most of his iconic sculptures, 23 of which are in the Botero Plaza.
Photographer; was a Rolex Arts Initiative protege under William Kentridge
Featured in Bajo un Mismo Sol at Museo Jumex: