History of Our World

The Art of Rachel Whiteread

Posted in Architecture, Art by A on May 20, 2010

Ghost, 1990.

Untitled (Black Bed), 1991.

Untitled (Wardrobe), 1994.

Untitled (Cast Iron Floor), 2001.

Valley, 1990.

Water Tower, 1998 – 1999.

Untitled (Amber Bed), 1991.

When referring to the specific atmosphere of a space, one often speaks metaphorically, filling it with fear, sorrow or tension. In this context, the essential presupposition is the initial emptiness of the space, which allows the viewer to fill it with something. Hardly anyone has interpreted this process as literally as the British artist Rachel Whiteread. Characterized by a certain monumentality, her sculptures push towards a chain reaction of emotional, symbolic, metaphorical, personal, and ethical/political reflections.

The viewer searches for signs to explain the vague feeling inside, tries to discover personal traces of the inhabitants in the spaces, or projects his or her own visions on or into it. Recollections, memories past and present, private and public, themes of intimacy, domestic life, childhood, loss, and death come to the fore, but the uniformity of the plaster, rubber and concrete yields nothing; blocking any sense of narrative or identity.

These spaces reveal no symbols from which one might read a personal spatial meaning or even a history. Within the solidifying of spatial volumes, the possibility of being becomes lost. The fact that the material and shape of the objects have a certain resemblance to tombstones or even mausoleums – which has been claimed repeatedly about Ghost – nourishes a feeling of permanence and finality; a feeling that can only be described as hollow.

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The Art of Rachel Whiteread

Chris Townsend : Rachel Whiteread

Thames & Hudson

2004

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Rachel Whiteread

Thames & Hudson

A

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  2. [...] As the title implies, the art of Rachel Whiteread carries with it a certain sense of finality – an event has just taken place here, somebody once occupied this space, or at one time this object had a purpose. Now, it sits empty; the viewer cannot obtain closure from the current state, there is no resolution and there is no reassurance. Whiteread’s monolithic architectural forms occupy negative space with their own more subtle brand of emptiness; they loom like spectres, ghostly forms with a presence both palpable and sepulchral. Very powerful indeed. (History of Our World) [...]


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