Rachel Whiteread was born in Britain in 1963. Her largest work to date, a sculpture of the interior of a library, commissioned as a memorial to victims of the Holocaust, will be unveiled in Vienna’s Judenplatz in October 2000. She lives and works in London.
‘If Rachel could drink a couple of quarts of plaster or pour resin down her throat, wait until it sets, and then peel herself away, I have a feeling she would’, wrote the American novelist AM Homes. ‘She shows us the unseen, the inside out, the parts that go unrecognised.’
Rachel Whiteread solidifies space. Using materials that include plaster, concrete, resin, and rubber she updates the conventions of casting, to mould not the object itself but the area within or around it. Chairs, tables, beds, bathtubs, bookshelves, floors - ordinary things that stand as evidence in the everyday histories of life - have all been subject to this process of spatial transformation. In 1993, she was thrust into the public eye when she cast the inside of an entire Victorian terraced house.
Her ordered, slab-like structures are influenced by Minimalism. Yet in place of Minimalism’s impersonal uniformity, she creates sculptural reliquaries, infused with the traces of human existence. ‘Someone once called my work “Minimalism with a heart” ‘, she has said.
Ghost, the sculpture shown here, is a plaster cast of a living room, modelled on a house in North London, similar to the one in which the artist grew up. Window frames, light sockets, a fireplace, and the grooves left by a door are etched into the plaster, creating a perfect negative imprint. It is an unsettling paradox, an interior that shuts the viewer out. Whiteread has compared her method of casting to the making of a death mask. In its melancholy beauty, Ghost is a resonant monument both to the individuals who once occupied this room, and to our collective memories of home.