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Lot 55: f,m - RACHEL WHITEREAD
Contemporary Art Evening
June 21, 2006
London, United Kingdom
UNTITLED (SIX SPACES)
Executed in 1994.
Karsten Schubert, London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
"My works are very much connected to the body and with the human touch. Whether it's my touch, or someone else's, or a whole family's touch, they're about a piece of furniture which has been used." (cited in C. Mullins, Rachel Whiteread, Tate Gallery, London 2004, n/p)
For over fifteen years, Whiteread had investigated the inner life of the rooms and objects making up the fabric of our landscape -- what we cannot see and yet exists. From the monumental public spaces like House (1993) and Holocaust Memorial (2000) to the more intimate domestic objects of the everyday, her work explores the dynamics of the overlooked relationships between the human body and the spaces which surround and contain it. Casting her sculptures from underneath and within the unseen and banal, she dramatizes the objects of our environment by turning our conventional relationships to them upside down and inside out.
Graduating from the Slade School of Art in the late 80s, at a time when it seemed like every avenue in sculptural expression had been exhausted through Minimalism and Conceptualism, her work found fresh beauty and relevance within three dimensional form. Looking to the rich artistic vocabulary of her predecessors - Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Bruce Nauman and many more - her work reshapes our awareness of positive and negative, public and private, personal and societal. Unlike the generic repetitions borne out of Minimalism, each of Whiteread's individually cast unique spaces contains an intensely emotional and personal narrative.
Untitled (six spaces) occupies a place of huge significance within Whiteread's mature work. As well as being the most colourful sculpture that she had made to date, it was also one of the first works she made using resin and shows her growing interest in the individual, transformative properties of materials. Created by casting the spaces beneath six wooden seats of the kind found in church halls and schools, each unique space is of different proportions and a different hue: slate, lime, rose, indigo, tea and antique gold. Of similar height but as individual as human physiognomy, these six spaces provided the inspiration for one of her most iconic mature works Untitled (One Hundred Spaces). Importantly also, the surface detail achieved in these resin casts saw Whiteread reaching new heights in her working process. Each minute scratch and intimate detail of the chairs is here faithfully recorded upon the translucent surface of the resin, acting as a record of the object's past, its sense of history and unconscious. In this way, her use of resin has an obvious parallel to the tree resin that enveloped prehistoric insects in its sticky ooze, capturing yet preserving them for posterity. It is in part this commemorative quality which gives Whiteread's mummified resin spaces their quasi-religious aura; something she has consciously developed in her subsequent public memorials.
Awarded the Turner Prize in 1993 and a medal at the Venice Biennale in 1997, Whiteread has continually challenged and extended the boundaries of her chosen medium. Her creation of 'negative' spaces draws parallels with some of Bruce Nauman's early works like A Cast of the Space under my Chair (1965-8), which she had seen in a Whitechapel show of Nauman's work in 1986. Although built around a similar exploration of the body to the world, unlike Nauman's, her work capitalises upon the possibilities of the casting process to evoke the simultaneous presence of the cast object as well as the space within it. She isolates the boundary where interior and exterior come together, cultivating the surface tensions and fossilised nuances of the objects to manifest alien spaces of curious familiarity. Tinged with memory and nostalgia, the ethereal solidity of the six resin casts evokes feelings of human fragility. Their inner glow endows each sculpture with a life of its own -- one which evolves constantly with the different flashes of changing light refracting from their core. Whiteread here has transformed the most mundane and utilitarian object of the everyday, the seat, into an object of mystery and poetic beauty. In doing so, she forces a reassessment of conventional aesthetic as well as material values.