Primera lección, 1970

Photo: Elodie Grethen, 2018
Photo: Elodie Grethen, 2018
Photo: Elodie Grethen, 2018
Photo: Elodie Grethen, 2018
Photo: Elodie Grethen, 2018

Set of five silkscreen prints
Each 39 x 93 x 5 cm (framed)
Overall dimensions: 195 x 93 x 5 cm

After studying sociology and architecture at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá, Bernardo Salcedo came to be recognized as a pioneer of Conceptual art in Colombia. Primera lección (First Lesson) undoes Colombian nationalist rhetoric by analyzing the state’s coat of arms. The work consists of five white placards, which read:
“There are no condors.”
“There is no abundance.”
“There is no freedom.”
“There is no canal.”
“There is no shield. There is no homeland.”
One by one, Salcedo dismantles the elements represented on the coat of arms, making specific reference to the extinct Andean condor and the loss of the Isthmus of Panama and its canal that adorn the national flag. Through the negation of symbols of grandeur, freedom, and prosperity, Salcedo openly criticizes the validity of the state’s rhetoric in light of the transformation of the country at the time. As the work is read from top to bottom, the gradual erosion of the symbols and ideals of the sovereign nation point to a radical abandonment of the state’s promises and ideals. The division of the work into different arguments exemplifies Salcedo’s direction that the signs could be reshuffled and presented in a different order. Primera lección is one of Salcedo’s most overtly political works, so much so that when it was exhibited in Cali, Colombia, in 1973, the mayor requested that the work be removed from view.
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1939. Died in Subachoque, Colombia, in 2007.