Houses are loaded: places where folks make love and trouble, cheat on their taxes, scold their children, drink too many cocktails, and break bread with friends. Actions of intimacy, decadence, indecency, and good old-fashioned humanity take place inside walls of stone,... [more]
Houses are loaded: places where folks make love and trouble, cheat on their taxes, scold their children, drink too many cocktails, and break bread with friends. Actions of intimacy, decadence, indecency, and good old-fashioned humanity take place inside walls of stone, metal, wood, and glass. But what of the space itself, where events happen, where seeming emptiness defines the surrounding physical elements? Is it possible to have a visual relationship with something we cannot see?
Rachel Whiteread's extraordinary plaster cast of a house in East London challenges relationships with space. Where a familiar Victorian structure once stood, the artist has left only a concrete object. After using the frame of the home as a mold for the new structure, Whiteread removed the traditional exterior materials (wood, nails, glass) to reveal a new solid concrete object in the space and shape of the old domicile's interior.
The sculpture, simply called "House" (1993-94), is full of connotative power. Imprints of windows and doors leave traces in the concrete block of Pompeii-style creepiness. The audience must re-evaluate its relationship with the space: emptiness is now solid and a solid form is now empty. That which once surrounded, sheltered, and confined is now gone. And what was thought to be empty is now a visible, identifiable, and physical mass. Whiteread reveals, in fact, that nothing has always been something.
"House" is not the British-born artist's only foray into the force of voids. "Water Tower," as the name implies, is a resin cast of the interior of an actual water tower. Though the original object has been removed, the eerie translucent remnant left in its place clearly calls it back to mind. It's as if Whiteread is paying homage to the ghosts of material objects. Her 1996 "Untitled (ten tables)" is a cast of the space underneath ten generic tables, while a 1990 "Untitled" sculpture of plaster and glass is a block-like object framing the outside of an ordinary bathtub.
Whiteread's works often intimate that something has been lost, but sometimes they reveal the opposite -- sometimes the viewer discovers something they always knew existed but could not identify visually. Her sculptures investigate the relationship between matter and its corresponding negative space, between what we have imagined lost and what we have discovered found. [show less]