Meticulously crafted, long, narrow, wooden tables topped with earth and another upended table crowd the gallery. Viewers carefully wind their way through the maze-like, sacred space. The intimate proximity to the sculptures prevents distant, passive viewing. Sparse, straggly shoots of green grass sprout from the tabletops. Resembling coffins, the installation references the thousands of youth killed on the streets of L.A., as well as youth murdered by the military in Colombia. Rather than a somber memorial focusing on the dead, the grass symbolizes resilience and perseverance. Plegaria Muda, translated as “silent prayer,” suggests hope and a collective call to witness.
Conflating poetics with the politics of victimization Salcedo contextualizes her work with exhumation of the dead. Metaphorically and literally fecund, the dark platitude of survival through hardship physicalizes loss as symbolic graveyard. Plegaria Muda references Columbian youths found in mass graves, while mentioning 10,000+ youth deaths on the streets of LA. Disturbingly, the work offers no specific voice to the victimized voiceless of LA, relying on its powerful, universal vagueness to co-opt any tragedy. From a stratospheric art career the strategic franchising of the distant dead becomes questionable as empathy, yet highly valuable as cultural capital.
~ Ryder Richards
images courtesy of Colette Copeland