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Lot 39: RACHEL WHITEREAD

Contemporary, Part One

by Sotheby's

May 12, 2004

New York, NY, USA

Rachel Whiteread (1963) Please Register/Login to access your Invaluable Alerts

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Description: colored resin in 16 parts

Executed in 1995.

Notes: Rachel Whiteread's powerful work attempts to describe absence. Whiteread asks what seems like a very basic, but very loaded question: what is the essence of a thing defined only by the area which it does not occupy? Her deeply considered art, however, begs a multitude of other questions. In itself, 'absence' is a concept that permeates all our lives at the beginning of the Twenty-First Century. Lost lives, lost loves, our very existence is temporally framed, and Whiteread's work takes us to a theater of memories for a post-Modern, post-Millennial age. Our contemporary lives are placed in an era of intense scrutiny and it is, therefore, extremely refreshing to find a quiet moment and ponder the simple gestalt of negative space turned into beautiful matter. Whiteread provides us with an escape from the deflated idealism and sensationalism of our times. In the case of Untitled (16 Spaces) a translucent idealism; a moment of simplicity prevails.

Whiteread's work, and specifically the series of Spaces she has made, is usually connected to the work of Bruce Nauman. As early as 1965, whilst still at college, Nauman became interested in the idea of casting objects, and then presenting the discarded mould, rather than the cast object itself. The process thus became the object. In 1965 (and completed in 1968) he made A Cast of the Space under my Chair, in concrete (Geertjan Visser Collection). Nauman cast the usually unnoticed space beneath a chair as defined by the boundaries of its legs and seat, in the process creating a geometric, almost minimalist, object that gave volume to that which was previously absent. Untitled (16 Spaces), executed in 1995, is composed of casts taken from the underside of sixteen chairs. Whiteread's objects, although sharing the same conceptual genesis as Nauman's concrete object, differ greatly in their phenomenological properties. Her rare delicacy of vision promotes a somewhat spiritual character in the present work, explicit in the translucent, diaphanous character of the differently-hued resin casts. Made monumental by the composition's regularity and serialization, each negative space takes on a marked appearance peculiar to the detail of its form, further enhancing the objects' understated grandeur. With these simulated 'ghosts', Whiteread forces the viewer to reassess the banal, domestic objects she casts by redirecting our gaze to that which was void. By empowering her spaces with a raw and direct vitality and humanity she simultaneously emphasizes the private aspects of domestic life whilst reflecting the human body in symbolic terms.

In this sense, Rachel Whiteread's sculpture actively stimulates reassessment of our preconceptions regarding society and the way we live. Casting directly from simple domestic landmarks of human experience, her sculptures of plaster, resin or rubber capture and explore the inner life of objects and spaces; specifically the solid volume of air they 'define'. Through her choice of subjects from daily life - chairs, beds, tables, floors, baths - Whiteread explores the human body through a process of retrospective association and anthropomorphism. Importantly, the actual cast object is absent though implied, subtly present through the nuances of its residual form. She has spoken of this technique in terms taking the surface distinct to one object and placing it onto another, rather like a mask. Beholding her sculpture entails a process of mapping the remembered onto the present, actively promoting memory and exploring its relationship to our surroundings.

Provenance: PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, LOS ANGELES

Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1996

Dimensions: dimensions variable

Exhibited: New York, Luhring Augustine Gallery, Rachel Whiteread: Sculptures, 1996

Date: B. 1963

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