Colombia’s Violent Past Presented as Stunning Works of Art

This week, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago celebrates the work of conceptual sculptor Doris Salcedo with her first ever retrospective.

Doris Salcedo Installation view, Doris Salcedo Studio, Bogotá, 2013 Photo- Oscar Monsalve Pino Reproduced courtesy of the artist; Alexander and Bonin, New York; and White Cube, London

Colombian sculptor Doris Salcedo has the unique talent of being able to turn something innocuous, like a draped sheet or an empty bed, into a meaningful statement on the human condition. This week, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago celebrates the work of this singular artist with her first ever retrospective, which will include not just her greatest hits but also some of her more obscure treasures.

Salcedo first gained recognition in the 1990s for her use of minimalist imagery to highlight global sociopolitical concerns. In the artist’s world, absence, loss, and memory are forever locked in a dance only slightly perceptible to the human eye. Her art works, open to interpretation, act as visual testimonies to both victim and victimizer. The emotional intensity of Salcedo’s work is due in no small part to her own personal history. Several members of her family “disappeared” during particular times of turmoil in Colombia’s often brutal history. As a result, her installations—which can range from an empty hospital bed to a series of unmarked white shirts—are in many ways memorials to loved ones whose absence can be felt in the “unbearable emptiness” they leave behind.

Doris Salcedo A Flor de Piel, 2011–12 Rose petals and thread 257 x 421 1/4 in. (652.8 x 1070 cm) Installation view, White Cube, London, 2012 Photo: Hugo Glendinning Reproduced courtesy of the artist; Alexander and Bonin, New York; and White Cube

Salcedo’s “memory sculptures” are also inspired by the many interviews she’s had with those who’ve borne witness to loss and trauma due to political violence. One of the highlights of the show is Unland (1995–98), a group of three table-like works that are fused together with human hair and silk threads. In the La Casa Viuda series from the early 1990s, Salcedo takes ordinary household items like a chair and table and arranges them into tableaus for victims of the Colombia’s civil war.

Doris Salcedo Untitled, 1998 Wooden cabinet, concrete, steel, and clothing 72 1/4 x 39 x 13 in. (183.5 x 99.5 x 33 cm) Collection of Lisa and John Miller, fractional and promised gift to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Photo: David Heald Reproduced courtesy of the artist; Alexander and Bonin, New York; and White Cube, London

The MCA, in addition to the exhibition, is producing a short film documenting Salcedo’s more ephemeral installations, creations that have been destroyed or are otherwise unavailable.

The exhibition travels to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, June 26–October 14, 2015.


October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less

Since normalizing relations with Communist China back in 1979, the U.S. government and its companies that do business with the country have, for the most part, turned a blind-eye to its numerous human rights abuses.

In China's Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang, it's believed that over a million members of its Uighur population are being arbitrarily imprisoned and tortured in concentration camps. Female Uighurs in detention are being given forced abortions and subjected to sexual mistreatment.

Keep Reading Show less

The vaping epidemic is like a PSA come to life. A recent outbreak of vaping-related deaths and illnesses has affected people from across 46 states. More than 800 people fell ill, and at least 17 people died from vaping. In Illinois and Wisconsin, 87% of the people who got sick said they used THC, and 71% of people also said they used products that contained nicotine. Symptoms of the illness included coughing, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea, and fatigue. We finally might now why.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic believe toxic chemical fumes, not the actual chemicals in the vape liquid, might be the culprit. "It seems to be some kind of direct chemical injury, similar to what one might see with exposures to toxic chemical fumes, poisonous gases and toxic agents," Dr. Brandon Larsen, a surgical pathologist at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, said in release.

Keep Reading Show less