The immense patchwork of roses in Doris Salcedo’s A Flor de Piel(2014) is a delicate, mummified red. Drained of their scarlet, the petals have turned brown and sepia, the hues of decay and memory — or of blood, spilled and old. The artist has previouslydescribed the work as a shroud, and indeed, it is a work of art for the dead.
Salcedo’s traveling retrospective — shown first at the MCA Chicago, then the Guggenheim, and now at the PAMM — contains works from across her 30-year career. Born in Bogotá in 1958, Salcedo has developed an oeuvre of funerary sculptures out of everyday objects.
“I’m looking for the trace of the tragic,” she says, “And I find that trace in those objects that have already been used.”
These objects, imbued with loss, mourning, and remembrance, fill the PAMM’s galleries with haunting effect.
Salcedo and her large studio of assistants make elegiac poetry out of cabinets, dressers, chairs, and shoes — deceptively simple works if only glanced at. Look closer and you’ll find the macabre remnants of lives lived. In the series La Casa Viuda (1993-94), there’s the zipper embedded in the cabinet, the shirt peeking out of the poured concrete, the undetectable human bone. The title of the series, roughly translated to “the widowed house,” is an apt metaphor for the aesthetic that Salcedo is after: the implication of bodies, of lives lived and lost.