Rachel Whiteread

b. 1963

Rachel Whiteread is a London based artist whose signature technique of creating sculptures is by casting the interiors of spaces.  Whitehead is known internationally as a sculptor, whose work also includes drawings, collages, photographs, and documentation of public art projects. This award winning artist studied painting at Brighton Polytechnic and spent two years working on sculpture at the Slade School of Art in London. She started drawing in 1992 during her time in Berlin.

Part Minimalist, part Conceptualist- Whiteread turns empty space into solid form and transforms domestic objects into public monuments that embody everyday life.  To do this, she uses industrial materials such as plaster, rubber, concrete, metal, resin, and aluminum.  She makes casts not of the objects themselves but rather the space surrounding them. Her work includes the presence of individuals in scratches from furniture, flooring, or traces of paint adhering to the casts.

She became well-known in 1990 with “Ghost,” a plaster cast of the inside of a Victorian living room.  Three years later she replicated the interior of a condemned residence in London’s East End in one of her best-known works “House” 1993-1994. It is her most famous piece and is a key historical work for shaping the discourse around contemporary art.  This massive concrete cast of the interior of a domestic structure won her the 1993 Turner Prize, making her the first woman to be honored by Tate Britain. It was controversially destroyed soon after its completion. Since then, she has represented Britain at the Venice Biennale and turned out one monumental project after another.

In 2010, U.C.L.A.’s Hammer Museum presented the first retrospective of Whiteread’s  assembled drawings from the last 20 years. These spare and largely monochrome works are self-contained works of art, resembling but not necessarily functioning as preparatory sketches for her sculptures.  She often draws on graph paper, starting out with pencil and ink and filling space with unorthodox materials such as varnish, watercolor, or correction fluid. In drawings alluding to her “House” sculpture, she paints white correction fluid on photocopied images of houses, that she had originally considered using as molds for her sculpture in order to obliterate them.

In her 1990 “Study for Sloping Bed” the fluid is layered so thickly that the drawing seems like a solid object sitting heavily on a ruffled page.  Other drawings are collages made with photographs.  They are related to a group of 72 postcards, some of which show the interior of a Gothic church with holes punched into the card, allowing light to filter through.

Whitehead has had solo exhibitions in Basel, Paris, San Francisco, Germany and London.  In 2018-2019 The National Gallery of Art in Washington and Tate Britain will co-organize the first comprehensive 30 year retrospective of her work.  Her first solo exhibition from 1988 will be restaged along with several new works.

More here.

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