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Artists Rachel Whiteread
Rachel Whiteread Photo

Rachel Whiteread

British Sculptor

Movements and Styles: Young British Artists, Modern Sculpture, Conceptual Art

Born: April 20, 1963 - Ilford, United Kingdom

Rachel Whiteread Timeline

Quotes

"I think the difference between me and some of the other YBAs (Young British Artists) was that I was ambitious for the work, and not ambitious for myself."
Rachel Whiteread
"I don't want to make plop art - sculpture that just gets plopped down in places. I wouldn't want to litter every corner of the world with my sculpture."
Rachel Whiteread
"When I was a student at the Slade [School of Fine Art], I used my body quite a lot; I cast bits of me - a few friends have got them - bits of leg and back and arm. There were caretakers that had my breasts on the wall of their hut."
Rachel Whiteread
"James Lingwood [of Artangel, which specialises in art in unexpected places] came to me and said, 'Is there anything you want to do?' To someone still in their twenties, this was amazing. 'Yeah, I want to make a house,' I said."
Rachel Whiteread
"It's my mission to make things more complicated"
Rachel Whiteread
"I studied painting as an undergraduate, and then as a postgraduate, I studied sculpture. When I applied for postgrad, I had applied to one school for painting and the other for sculpture. I got into both and decided that sculpture was the thing."
Rachel Whiteread
"Making art early in my career was kind of like being sick - better out than in. As you get older, you try to keep some of that, but you're obviously much clearer about what you're doing."
Rachel Whiteread
"There's a lot more space for women to be artists. Women are more successful than ever before. Still, the prices women command are far smaller than men. It's extraordinary really. How does that still happen?"
Rachel Whiteread

"I make all this stuff in the studio, but I also work on these white elephants - like House or Untitled Monument - things that are incredibly ambitious, take an awful long time to do, involve a lot of controversy, an awful lot of people, and don't make any money particularly, but it's just because I need to make them."

Rachel Whiteread Signature

Synopsis

Before Rachel Whiteread, no artist had ever found a way of making the air that surrounds an object the subject of their work. Rather than pouring a liquid, such as molten metal, plastic, rubber, or fiberglass into a mold to make a replica of a regular, pre-existing work, she made a plaster cast of the negative or unseen space around an object. The air trapped inside a hot water bottle, the space underneath a bed and the interior of a three-storey house - Whiteread turned the traditional process of cast sculpture on its head. The first woman to win the Turner Prize, the most prestigious art award in the UK, Whiteread continues to make work that is remarkable for its ability to comment on themes of absence and loss in monumental and subtle ways.

Key Ideas

In making the air or space rather than the thing itself the focus of her work Whiteread singularly reinvented the traditional casting process. This was a remarkable achievement in that it helped to redefine the very nature of what a sculpture was.
Her approach broke new ground in the fact it was based on the conceptual idea of absence - a position that one could perhaps see as almost anti-sculptural.
Her sculptures deal with psychological space as well as physical space. Evoking themes of absence and memory, their sheer presence in specific sites - such as deprived areas of East London and the Holocaust Monument in Vienna's Judenplatz - provide an affecting social and political commentary.
Repetition is key to her work - as Whiteread herself noted in her remark that "I've done the same things over and over". However, even in her series of hot water bottles, mattresses, or translucent resin cubes, the slight imperfections and subtle color changes help create variety and a sense of time passing.

Biography

Rachel Whiteread Photo

Childhood

Born in Ilford in Essex, Rachel Whiteread moved to London when she was seven. Her mother, the artist Patricia Whiteread, was involved in important exhibitions of feminist art at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts in the 1980s. Consequently, Whiteread and her older twin sisters grew up surrounded by art and materials for art making. Her father Thomas, a geography teacher, supported his wife's artistic career, and converted part of their house into a studio, where Whiteread remembers helping to install a concrete floor as a child. The artist has frequently cited the importance of her upbringing to her later artistic practice, feeling a particular debt to her geographically minded father, "whose interest in industrial archaeology enabled me to look up" and appreciate concepts of architecture, spatiality, and memory.

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Rachel Whiteread Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Rachel Whiteread
Interactive chart with Rachel Whiteread's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Bruce NaumanBruce Nauman
Louise BourgeoisLouise Bourgeois
Richard Wilson
Alison Wilding
Richard Deacon

Personal Contacts

Marcus Taylor

Movements

MinimalismMinimalism
Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
Arte PoveraArte Povera

Influences on Artist
Rachel Whiteread
Rachel Whiteread
Years Worked: 1988 - present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Angela de la Cruz
Karla Black

Personal Contacts

Movements

Contemporary Sculpture

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Anna Souter

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Nicky Hodge

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Anna Souter
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Nicky Hodge
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