Tuesday, 26 June 2012



This is a delicate and fragile sculpture: a shroud made of thousands of rose petals, neither fresh nor withered, but connected to each other in a suspended state which changes with time. When I saw it, it lay in unruly folds, almost covering the gallery floor, an unhealthy liverish colour, which reminded me of skin -  and then of flayed skin.

Salcedo, who is Columbian, is an unsettling artist. You can still see the scar left by her eerie manipulation of familiar places and ordinary things if you look down at the concrete floor of the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. Shibboleth 2007 was the long meandering crack which ran through the Hall and seemed to push the building apart, summoning up fun and intrigue and, for some, where-is-the-Health-and-Safety-officer?

 I first came across her work when I saw at Tate Modern Untitled 1998, a wardrobe filled with cement with a wooden chair poking through. It felt like revenge on all the anxieties wardrobes cause us: the secrets hidden at the bottom (Christmas presents for the children, pornography); the mirrors which ask you if you are too old or too fat; its magic which might whisk you off to C.S. Lewis' Narnia or suffocate you with a lock which snaps shut.

 She often bears witness to violence and on the floor below Piegaria Muda (mute prayer) is an installation evoking a mass memorial or collective burial site, which she began in Los Angelos after researching the violent life of young people in the city. Her magic is sinister, secretive. A crack through which we glimpse another world.

A Flor de Piel developed as the simple but impossible task of making a flower offering to a victim of torture.

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