Description: Untitled (Black Bed)
fiberglass and rubber
12 x 74 x 54 in. (30.5 x 188 x 137.2 cm.)
Executed in 1991.
Artist or Maker: Rachel Whiteread (b. 1963)
Exhibited: Kunsthalle Basel; Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art; Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, The Institute of Contemporary Art and Boston, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Rachel Whiteread, October 1994-July 1995, p. 40 (illustrated).
Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, British Art of the '80s and '90s: The Weltkunst Collection, May-October 1995.
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Dissonant Themes in Art of the 1990s, June-September 1996, p. 107, no. 38 (illustrated).
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Balka, Salcedo, Whiteread, April-July 1998.
Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Lifescapes: New Displays from the IMMA Collection, October 1999-January 2000.
London, Serpentine Gallery; Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Rachel Whiteread, June-December 2001, pp. 34-35, no. 5 (illustrated).
Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Glad That Things Don't Talk, April-June 2003.
Dublin, Museum of Modern Art, on long term loan to Weltkunst
Foundation, 1994-2005 (with intermittent loans to other exhibitions).
Literature: C. Mullins, Rachel Whiteread, London, 2004, p. 30 (illustrated).
Rachel Whiteread: The Transient Spaces, exh. cat., Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, 2001, n.p. (illustrated).
Provenance: Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
Weltkunst Foundation, Zurich, on long term loan to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 1994 to present
Notes: From monumental architectural projects of water towers and houses to more intimate, domestic vessels of mattresses and bathtubs, Whiteread's sculptures are concerned with the interaction between common objects and the human body. These works, cast from the spaces in and under objects, and reconfigured in rubber and resin, dramatize the spaces created by our environment and its contents. Though common and banal, we interact with these objects in deeply meaningful and personal ways: mattresses bear the marks of passion and illness, while bathtubs harbor the stains of our bodies.
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Whiteread often explores a single motif in a variety of forms and materials. Her subjects are inspired by both public and personal narratives. She first began casting mattresses during her father's long illness; Shallow Breath, 1988 is an actual cast of her father's deathbed. Also influential were public programs decrying the state of public housing. One of the most resonant was a documentary about an elderly man whose death was unnoticed for weeks. Once discovered, his belongings, including his mattress, which bore the impressions of his decomposed body, were left on the sidewalk, on which neighborhood children happily played for weeks before it was collected and discarded.
Untitled (Black Bed) is a signature mattress from 1991, cast in fiberglass and rubber. Rendered in melancholic tones, the cast nuances and dramatizes the object's texture--the faintly lined surface and material pliability suggest worn and sunken bodies. It asks us to reconsider and scrutinize the meaning of our daily habits and encounters.
Whiteread's casts reference the reductive, visual language of Minimalist artists such as Carl Andre, Donald Judd and Richard Serra; however, their geometric and repetitious nature is borne not from an emotionally austere framework, but rather from an intensely personal narrative. Though formally rigorous and disciplined, Whiteread's casts have a haunting and heartbreaking quality rooted in narratives marked by life, sex and death.