In the late 1980s Susana Solano achieved international recognition as one of the most important Spanish artists of her generation. Her sculptures are formally spare yet richly evocative; while many of her structures recall the simple geometry of Minimalism or the focus on process associated with Post-Minimalism, they carry various metaphoric associations. A series of metal sculptures from the 1980s, for example, allude to elements of domestic architecture or features of the natural landscape, while other large-scale grilled constructions are cagelike in appearance and freighted with a sense of entrapment. Since the early pleated and bunched canvases she exhibited at her first solo exhibition at the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona in 1980, Solano's work has manifested an abiding interest in cavities and interior spaces, partly open or sealed off and suggestive of bodies or spaces that contain bodies. The subtle, frequently unstated corporeal presence in her work reflects her continuing preoccupation with exploring the vagaries of human existence.
In the 1990s, besides continuing to expand her range of sculptural materials, Solano began to produce multicomponent installations and to incorporate photography into her practice. In the later part of the decade, her work also began to reflect her extensive travels and encounters with non-Western cultures in Africa and elsewhere. One of the first and most powerful such works, Jaosokor features a canoe-shaped iron armature covered with strips of transparent, colorless plastic knotted at regular intervals. Animated by the ambient light of the gallery, the surface of the sculpture subtly evokes the properties of water, an element Solano has alluded to elsewhere in her work. Although it is made from industrial materials, this structure suggests a tribal handicraft, an association strengthened by the accompanying photograph, hung on a nearby wall, of the face of a South Sea Islander. Solano was inspired to produce this work by a sojourn in Irian Jaya, the western, Indonesian part of the island of New Guinea, where she spent time in the small village of Jaosokor. With its juxtaposition of indigenous forms and motifs with synthetic, Western materials, Jaosokor stages a confrontation between two worlds. According to the curator Teresa Blanch, who has written extensively on Solano, the piece "evokes a disturbing voyage through the ages of humanity," offering both a "denouncement of abuses perpetrated against indigenous peoples" and, at the same time, a more universalizing "tribute to human perseverance in face of the large existential fractures wrought by history."