Door 11: Rachel Whiteread
At the end of the 1980s, beginning of the 1990s a group of young British artists emerged, labeled YBAs, who pushed the envelop a little further and at the same time captured the zeitgeist. Leading or most famous artists of this movement are Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, which, especially the later, gained a reputation through his market oriented art approach. A different approach, but non the less controversial has their contemporary, the sculptor Rachel Whiteread.
She was born in Illford, Essex, in 1963, stayed there until the age of 7 and then moved with her family to London. Her mother was an artist, and her father a geography teacher and a polytechnic administrator. In 1982 she went to study painting in Brighton, but was more drawn to sculpture and visited a workshop there. After a short stay at the Cyprus College of art, she studied sculpture at Slade School of Art, University College in London.
After graduating in 1987, she began exhibiting in the same year and already her first solo show in 1988. Her work Ghost (1990) caused quite a stir, where she set out to "mummify the air in a room"and cast an entire room in plaster in a house similar to the one she grew up. This approach, partly executed before, but not in that scale, stuck with her until now. The work was included in Charles Saatchi's seminal YBA show in 1992 and later acquired by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
She gained public notoriety for her 1993 work House, where she took the idea of Ghost further and filled a complete, soon to be destroyed Victorian house with concrete. The work was destroyed after 80 days. On the day of destruction, it was announced that she won the prestigious Turner prize, making her the first woman to win it.
In her spirit she continued with works like Untitled (One Hundred Spaces), where she inspired by Bruce Nauman captured space underneath 100 chairs and cast them in resin, using various colors. Additionally she continued making public works like Water Tower (1998) in New York, Holocaust Monument (2000) in Vienna or The Gran Boathouse (2010) in Gran, Norway.
Rachel Whiteread sees herself as a sculptor, as in her own opinion "thinks in 3D". She uses materials like plaster, concrete, resin, rubber and metal to cast, as shown above, everyday objects and architectural space making air and emptiness solid. Therefore she uses drawing as her thinking process, not only to sketch, but to develop her idea. She is influenced by minimalists like Donald Judd or Dan Flavin or landscape artists like Gordon Matta-Clark.