Born in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1958, Doris Salcedo initially trained as a painter and briefly pursued an interest in theater before turning to sculpture in the 1980s. In 1984 she received a master of fine arts from New York University. Her discovery of the work of Joseph Beuys while she was in New York, together with her experience of being a foreigner there, informed her interest in the political dimension of sculpture: “Encountering his work revealed to me the concept of ‘social sculpture,’ the possibility of giving form to society through art,” she has said. After graduating, she returned to Bogotá to teach sculpture and art theory at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia until the late 1980s. The political instability she encountered upon her return led her to engage in projects that evoked the daily repercussions of the violence that was taking place.
Untitled (2008) is part of an ongoing series begun in 1989, Salcedo’s most extensive series of sculptures to date, in which assembled components, including pieces of domestic furniture, are used as a vehicle to explore the dramatic political history of Colombia. As in other series by the artist, including La casa viuda (1992–95), wooden furniture is used here to evoke the human body by its very absence. “All the works I’ve made so far contain first-hand evidence from a real victim of war in Colombia,” the artist has said. The series features groups of tables and wardrobes weathered by years of use, reassembled in hybrid forms, their empty spaces and partial surfaces covered in concrete. Through their material qualities, the new forms function as silent witnesses to implied personal and collective narratives.