Chairs. Stacked desks. An almost empty floor. This is not the description of a school closed for summer vacation, but the moving and socially rooted works of Doris Salcedo. The famed Colombian artist is having a retrospective at New York’s Guggenheim museum opening June 26.
Salcedo, who mainly works with pieces of furniture, bases her art around her home country of Colombia and the struggles it has faced. Much of her work memorializes, in some way, lives lost to war, oppression, racism and other struggles faced both in Colombia and worldwide. Her large-scale, mournful installations, which may look commonplace upon first glance, are much more detailed and symbolic upon closer inspection and reflection. They provide an intense feeling of emptiness, loneliness, and pain meant to mirror the emotions felt by those who suffered under unjust regimes. They also invite the viewer to consider the situations and social climate that allowed for such atrocities to be committed. Her domestic items – chairs, tables and armoires – become representations for social injustices, death and violence across the globe. Yet despite all the sadness and greater tragic symbolism of her works, they also have another facet to them – hope for a better world.