White Cube Mason’s Yard presents new work by Colombian artist, Doris Salcedo. Well known for her creation of what have been termed, ‘memory sculptures’, Salcedo, works in her own words, ‘with materials that are already charged with significance, with meaning they have required in the practice of everyday life’. Often taking specific historical events as her point of departure, Salcedo is concerned in her work with the processes of remembering and forgetting, with the inconstancy, insubstantiality, impermanence and intransigence of memory and with memorialisation, commemoration.
Powerfully, hauntingly evocative, Salcedo’s sculptures/ installations combine past and present bringing about a process of material metamorphosis. In an interview with Charles Merewether in 1998, Salcedo expounded upon this notion of metamorphosis, describing the experience of the viewer with her own artistic reconnaissance and restoration of the past: “The silent contemplation of each viewer permits the life seen in the work to reappear. Change takes place, as if the experience of the victim were reaching out…The sculpture presents the experience as something present- a reality that resounds within the silence.”
For her exhibition at White Cube, Salcedo presents two new large-scale installations, ‘Plegaria Muda’ (2008-10), and ‘Flor de Piel’ (2012). ‘Plegaria Muda’ is a multi-piece sculpture made up of 45 units reminiscent of a collective burial site. Each unit consists of two oblong tables, one upturned and separated by a thick layer of earth. Surprisingly and somewhat incredibly, through the surface of the uppermost tables sprout delicate, vivid green shoots of grass in a radical reassertion of life.
Work on ‘Plegaria Muda’, loosely translated as ‘mute prayer’, functions as a memorial to 1500 young men found dead in Colombia in 2007. The men, all of whom were from very poor families, had been murdered, and yet their deaths were falsely presented as occurring in combat. Salcedo then, , One feels uncomfortable in the presence of Salcedo’s memorial acutely aware of its commemorative function as well as of the coffin’s inherently corporeal implications.
‘Flor de Piel’ (2012), on display in the ground floor gallery resembles a vast counterpane, ‘an ephemeral skin or shroud’ made up of thousands of suffocated rose petals. ‘Flor de Piel’ explores in the artist’s words, the ‘limits of the fragile and the most delicate within the frame of sculpture’, an incredibly affective piece, begun as an aesthetic articulation of the impossibility of making a flower offering to a victim of torture.
Salcedo’s sculptures function as material manifestations of memory and of memorialisation asserting themselves in the interstices between the realms of the public and the private, indeed as the artist has commented, these works ‘refer to something extremely private’ and yet they speak not only of the individual but of the group.
Catch her while you can- the exhibition runs until 30th June at White Cube Mason’s Yard SW1Y 6BU
All images courtesy of White Cube c. Doris Salcedo.