The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents the first retrospective of the work of renowned sculptor Doris Salcedo (Colombian, b. 1958). Salcedo—who lives and works in Bogotá—gained prominence in the 1990s for her fusion of postminimalist forms with sociopolitical concerns. The exhibition features all major bodies of work from the artist’s thirty-year career—most of which have never been shown together before—as well as the US debut of her recent major work Plegaria Muda (2008–10).
Salcedo’s work is deeply rooted in her country’s social and political landscape, including its long history of civil conflicts, yet her sculptures and installations subtly address these fraught circumstances with elegance and a poetic sensibility that balances the gravitas of her subjects. Salcedo grounds her art in rigorous fieldwork, which involves extensive interviews with people who have experienced loss and trauma in their everyday lives due to political violence. In more recent years, Salcedo has created large-scale, site-specific installations around the world, including Turkey, Italy, Great Britain, and her native Colombia. Rather than making literal representations of violence or trauma, however, Salcedo’s artworks convey a sense of an absent, missing body and evoke a collective sense of loss. The resulting pieces engage with multiple dualities at once—strength and fragility, the ephemeral and the enduring—and bear elements of healing and reparation in the careful, laborious process of their making.
The exhibition begins with a selection of her earliest works made of hospital furniture and stacks of white shirts impaled by iron rebar. Salcedo re-creates the original installation of these works as they were first shown in Bogotá in 1990. A large group of pieces from her longest, ongoing body of work are exhibited together en masse for the first time since 1998: sculptures made with concrete-filled doors, tables, armoires, chairs, and other pieces of furniture—objects symbolic of the disrupted domestic sphere and its sustaining social bonds. Other major installations include La Casa Viuda (1993–95), a group of sculptures made primarily from found doors and other pieces of furniture rendered dysfunctional; Unland (1995–98), a group of three works that individually combine dissimilar tables, seemingly sewn together with human hair and raw silk; Atrabiliarios (1992–2004), which encases abandoned shoes within the gallery walls, behind a translucent surface; the aforementioned Plegaria Muda, an expansive installation of tables, inverted one atop another, with individual blades of grass growing through holes in their surfaces; and A Flor de Piel (2014), an enormous shroud-like sculpture made entirely of treated rose petals sutured together by hand, which drapes across the floor of the gallery. The exhibition also debuts the artist’s newest body of work, Disremembered (2014)—tunic-like sculptures sewn entirely out of raw silk, the threads connected through the use of nearly 12,000 needles.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the MCA is producing a short film documenting Salcedo’s site-specific and ephemeral installations—works that either no longer exist or are otherwise impossible to display in the galleries of the museum—as well as a 250-page publication featuring full-color illustrations and an overview of the artist’s career by leading scholars and curators. The catalogue is edited by Madeleine Grynsztejn and Julie Rodrigues Widholm, with an introduction by Madeleine Grynsztejn and contributions by Elizabeth Adan, Katherine Brinson, Helen Molesworth, and Doris Salcedo.
Doris Salcedo is cocurated by Pritzker Director Madeleine Grynsztejn and Curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm, and will be on view at the MCA from February 21–May 24, 2015. The exhibition travels to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, June 26–October 14, 2015.
Lead support for Doris Salcedo is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris: Caryn and King Harris, Katherine Harris, Toni and Ron Paul, Pam and Joe Szokol, Linda and Bill Friend, and Stephanie and John Harris. Additional lead support is provided by Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson, the Bluhm Family Foundation, Anne Kaplan, Howard and Donna Stone, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and Helen and Sam Zell.
Major support is provided by the Chicago Community Trust; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, Ministry of Culture of Colombia, and Embassy of Colombia in Washington DC; Barbara Bluhm-Kaul and Don Kaul; Paula and Jim Crown; Nancy and Steve Crown; Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation; Liz and Eric Lefkofsky; Susana and Ricardo Steinbruch; and Kristin and Stanley Stevens.
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