A New Installation by Rachel Whiteread
Sunday, January 1, 2006
The Albright-Knox presented Untitled (Domestic) as part of an ongoing series of large-scale sculptural installations in the museum’s Sculpture Court. British artist Rachel Whiteread has received critical acclaim for her unique body of work, in which she transforms ordinary domestic items and proverbial spaces into discretely poignant objects that subvert our sense of traditional function, form, and space. Since the late 1980s, Whiteread has used concrete, resin, rubber, and even dental plaster to cast sculptures from undeniably familiar household items and spaces—such as air mattresses, bathtubs, sinks, the interior of hot water bottles, or the undersides of tables and chairs—with the intention of emphasizing the more private aspects of domestic life and our constant relationship with these types of objects. Instead of making a highly detailed reproduction, however, Whiteread typically casts the negative space inside or around her initial subjects in order to achieve a ghostly impression of the original.
Untitled (Domestic) was the result of Whiteread’s recent exploration of transient architecture and ongoing examination of our interaction with the inconspicuous spaces we occupy each day. This sculpture was created by casting the interior fire escape staircase at the Haunch of Venison Gallery in London, England (a late 18th-century, three-story building that was originally the home of Admiral Lord Nelson) and is one of several staircase pieces the artist has completed to date. By reincarnating the staircase in its negative form and taking it out of its original context, this work invokes a disorienting sense of both recollection and loss, while simultaneously realizing the artist’s desire to bring together the purely formal and architectural qualities inherent to the sculptural medium.