“I don’t want to make plop art – sculpture that just gets plopped down in places. I wouldn’t want to litter every corner of the world with my sculpture”.
Rachel Whiteread studied painting at Brighton Polytechnic and sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art. She is one of the few artists of her generation to have produced important public sculptures, some of which have achieved a monumental status and significance. Whiteread was awarded the Turner Prize in 1993. Shortly before this she created House, a full-scale replica of the interior of a condemned terraced house in London’s East End. House was an eye-catching look at a space which we all take for granted. It was completed in October 1993 and demolished eleven weeks later.
This is an impression of the house innards, resulting in an inversion of the original building, with doorways, staircases and fireplaces all marked out and cast in solid concrete. There were impressions of details such as plug sockets, light fittings and door handles. “….I was really thinking about how one interpreted something from its place and spatial surrounding.” (1). The sculpture acts as a monument to those who lived within the building. Whiteread created House to be deliberately disorientating while also linking the viewer to a familiar sense of history, exploring themes of absence and the memory of place and space. She created volume in an empty space, offering a materiality to the invisible.
The above sculpture is also in the style of Whiteread’s ‘Empty Spaces’. The Holocaust Memorial located in Judenplatz, Vienna, was unveiled in 2000. It is a cultural space of memory and loss created by the genocide of the European Jews. Although another inverted building set in concrete, this creation is a brutally stark and haunting one. The ‘room’ of books symbolises the large number of victims of the Holocaust. It is strong yet fragile. The surfaces are cast library shelves turned inside out. The spines of the books are facing inwards and are not visible, therefore the titles are unknown. The double doors have no doorknobs or handles, suggesting there is no way out. It is in negative form, a metaphor for what it symbolises. For me this building is evocative, it provides a place to pause and remember.
1. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jun/21/rachel-whiteread-cabin-governors-island. [accessed 2nd November 2016].