The work of Doris Salcedo (Bogotá, 1958) is deeply rooted in the social and political circumstances of her native Colombia, although she does occasionally address problems in other contexts — a case in point being the project she has devised for the Palacio de Cristal. Time and again, her work sets out from rigorous research as she employs sculpture and installation to approach situations of conflict, with violence and its victims, memory and forgetting ever-present. Salcedo’s use of everyday materials and personal objects often takes on a sinister quality to evoke the absence of those people they are related to, or those to which they belong: missing persons, refugees, people who have been murdered or forgotten… Her pieces — poetic, fragile, beautiful — encompass drama, trauma and violence, often working as remembrance or homage, mourning for the living and, above all, people who die forgotten.
In Palimpsest, the title of her intervention in the Palacio de Cristal, Salcedo refers to all those who have drowned in the Mediterranean and Atlantic over the past twenty years attempting to emigrate from their countries of origin in search of a better life with greater freedom. Some of the names of men and women who died while fleeing are temporarily and intermittently written with drops of water on stone slabs made through a complex hydraulic engineering system.
Widely regarded as one of the eminent artists of her generation, Doris Salcedo’s body of work has been the subject of a major retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2015), which toured around other venues in the USA until the end of 2016. Furthermore, over the past two decades her work has been displayed in museums and art centres around the world: the New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York, 1998), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1999 and 2005), Tate Britain (London, 1999), Camden Arts Centre (London, 2001), the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (London, 2007), the Inhotim Centro de Arte Contemporânea (Belo Horizonte, 2008), MUAC (Mexico City, 2011), Moderna Museet (Malmö, 2011) and MAXXI (Rome, 2012). Salcedo has taken part in a number of prominent international biennials: the XXIV São Paulo Biennial (1998), Trace, the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art (1999), documenta 11, Kassel (2002), the 8th International Istanbul Biennial (2003), and the T1 Triennial for Contemporary Art, Turin (2005). She has also been the deserving winner of the Premio Velázquez de las Artes Plásticas (2010), the Hiroshima Art Prize (2014), and the Nasher Prize for Sculpture (2015).
(Photo: Doris Salcedo, Palimpsesto, 2013-2017. Photo: Juan Fernando Castro)