Rachel Whiteread at Tate Britain Q&Art questionsandart qandart

casting the negative since 1988

Rachel Whiteread (1963) has been casting the “negative spaces” – the inside of from something as small a water bottle to an entire house – for three decades. She was the first woman ever to win the Turner Prize in 1993. For this reason, I forced myself to love her major retrospective at the Tate. But I just don’t get the desire to cast the inside every non-worthy object that is surrounding us. According to the Tate, in this way, Whiteread explores the human imprint on our everyday environment. Gilda Williams expresses in her book “How to Write About Contemporary Art” that you always have to answer to the “So What?” question. And the only response I can think of is that for being the inside of non-remarkable objects, she surely is capable of making it beautiful.

My two favorites were Water Tower from 1993 and the Torso’s she made in the early 90s. Water Tower was a public commission and initially to be seen in the SoHo skyline before it moved to the MoMA sculpture garden. According to Guardian Art Critic Laura Cumming, it became a monument to New York’s vanishing history. The torsi (plural for torso) are made by casting the inside of water bottle with materials including resin, plaster, and wax. What remains is a very fragile little thing. Whiteread has described it as her “headless, limbless babies.”

This is a start in trying to break the habit of writing about nearly ending exhibitions because this exhibition is on view until January 21. 

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