Feb 21–May 31, 2015
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents the first survey 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 twenty-five-year career—most of which have never been shown together before—as well as the American debut of her recent major work Plegaria Muda (Silent prayer) (2008–10), and a site-specific public project.
Salcedo’s work is deeply rooted in her country’s social and political landscape, including its long history of civil wars, 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 intense research and 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 become increasingly interested in the universality of these experiences, and continues to pursue her research in different locations, including Turkey, Italy, Great Britain, and the United States. Rather than making literal representations of violence or trauma, however, Salcedo’s artworks convey the idea of corporeal fragility 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 wrapped in animal fiber 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 cement-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 (A Widow’s house) (1993–95), a group of sculptures arranged as a shattered domestic setting in which dislocated pieces of furniture, linens, and clothing are fused together, creating new forms; Unland (1995–98), a group of three works that individually combine dissimilar tables, seemingly sewn together with human hair; Atrabiliarios (Defiant) (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 (2013), an enormous shroud made entirely of treated rose petals, sutured together by hand. Also, in keeping with her concerns with loss, bearing witness, and processes of collective healing, Salcedo will create a new large-scale public project in Chicago in fall 2014, responding to the issue of gun violence in the city.
In conjunction with the exhibition, MCA Chicago will produce 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 184-page publication featuring full-color illustrations and an overview of the artist’s career by leading scholars and curators, including Madeleine Grynsztejn, Julie Rodrigues Widholm, Franklin Sirmans, and Elizabeth Adan.
Doris Salcedo is cocurated by Pritzker Director Madeleine Grynsztejn and Curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm.
Lead support for Doris Salcedo is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and Helen and Sam Zell.