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b. 1958, Bogotá, Colombia
Doris Salcedo was born in 1958 in Bogotá and is highly regarded for her evocative political sculpture, installation, and performance. The artist holds a BFA from the Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano (1980) and an MA in Sculpture from New York University (1984). She has served as Director of the School of Plastic Arts, Instituto de Bellas Artes, Cali, Colombia (1987–88), and as Professor of Sculpture and Art Theory, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá (1989–91). Salcedo's oeuvre is primarily concerned with memorializing the victims of the recent decades of brutal political violence in Colombia. Accomplished through a sculptural and forensic reconfiguring of intimate domestic objects such as furniture, shoes, and organic materials, much of the work responds to the testimony of friends and relatives of the missing (presumed dead). The artist has said, “Their suffering becomes mine; the center of that person becomes my center and I can no longer determine where my center actually is. . . . So the elements I work from are those which would be available to that person. From this point of view, the piece forms itself.”¹
Salcedo's style has a poetic yet archaeological quality, punctuated by grotesque and visceral elements and often reminiscent of crime scenes or burial excavation. The artist has acknowledged the influence of Joseph Beuys and Colombian artist Beatriz González, particularly in the fusion of the pictorial with performance and sculpture and in the use of evocative and unexpected materials. In her early, elegiac series (Atrabiliarios, 1991–96), Salcedo placed shoes in hollowed-out spaces in a wall and covered the openings with delicate animal fiber, suggesting the process of identifying victims in a mass burial, conveying a sense of horror, and personalizing loss. The unsettling work Unland: Irreversible Witness (1995–98) consists of a child's cot frame and a table riddled with hundreds of tiny holes through which human hair is woven. Untitled (2001), in which an armoire and dresser are sealed with a lace-infused, concrete-like substance, alludes to silent loss, grieving, and memory. These intimate, contemplative sculptures serve as counterpoint to public monuments to the dead and massacred.
Salcedo's practice also includes performative work such as Noviembre 6 y 7 (2002), during which chairs were lowered from the roof of Bogotá's new Palace of Justice (built on the site of the massacre of more than one hundred people in 1985). For the eighth Istanbul Biennal (2003) she combined elements of performance and installation, filling a space between two buildings with more than fifteen hundred chairs to memorialize lives lost in international war and conflict. In the work Abyss (2006), an installation in the Castello di Rivoli, Turin, the artist extended the castle vaulting to give visitors a sense of captivity and suggest the plight of political prisoners. Shibboleth (2007), commissioned for the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall in London, featured a fissure in the gallery floor that served as a metaphor for mourning and the aftershock of loss. In other recent works, she has returned to the theme of collective burial sites; in the body of works titled Plegaria Muda (2008–10) she stacked forty-five grey pairs of coffin-like tables, and in Flor de Piel (2012) a shroud of rose petals functions as a ghostly trace of lives lost and an offering of flowers to the victims of torture.
Salcedo has had solo exhibitions at the Casa de Moneda, Bogotá (1985); New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1998); Tate Gallery, London (1999); Camden Arts Centre, London (2001); Centro de Arte Contempornea, Belo Horizonte, Brazil (2008); Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; Moderna Museet, Malmö; and Centro de Arte Moderna, José de Azeredo Perdigo, Lisbon (all 2011); and at the Pinacoteca do Estado de So Paulo (2012). She has participated in group exhibitions at the So Paolo Biennial (1998); Liverpool Biennial (1999); Documenta Kassel, Germany (2002); Turin Triennial (2005); P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, and The Menil Collection, Houston (2008); and Hayward Gallery, London (2010). Salcedo has received multiple awards and honors, including the Ordway Prize (2005) and a Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Grant (1995). She lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia.
1. Carlos Basualdo, Nancy Princenthal, and Andreas Huyssen, Doris Salcedo (London: Phaidon, 2000), p. 14.