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Untitled (Domestic)

Rachel Whiteread (British, b. 1963)


Medium cast plaster on various armatures Measurements H: 266 x W: 230 x D: 96 1/2 in. (675.6 x 584.2 x 245.11 cm) Credit Owned jointly by Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund and Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; The Henry L. Hillman Fund Accession Number 2006.69 Location Not on View


Untitled (Domestic) is a sculpture from an interior staircase in a three-story, 18th-century London building that was once the home of the British naval hero Admiral Lord Nelson. Rachel Whiteread created this work by casting the space surrounding the staircase. To produce a work of this size, she cast the original space in parts and reassembled the pieces in her studio. This approach freed her from the limitations imposed by doorway clearances in the original building and allowed her to alter and recombine the various sections. The basic forms of Untitled (Domestic) reflect the original staircase, but the irregular surface textures and the recombined angles of the forms are Whiteread’s invention. The result is a disorienting structure whose inverted steps and twisting angles seem to extend upward toward an unknown destination. Since 1988, Whiteread has been creating large-scale sculptures and installations by casting objects and spaces from her domestic environment. For instance, in Untitled (One Hundred Spaces), featured in the 1995 Carnegie International, Whiteread used translucent resin to cast the spaces beneath 100 chairs. Two years earlier, she had produced House, a full-scale cast of a condemned house in London’s East End that had survived the bombing during World War II. Currently on view in the galleries, you will find Whiteread’s Untitled (Yellow Bath), produced in 1991. With their tactile, marked, and sometimes asymmetrical surfaces and shapes, these sculptures suggest the character and history of the original objects while reflecting the artist’s inventive aesthetic choices. They serve not only as formal studies of how humans relate to the spaces we inhabit, but also as physical tracings of past human experience.

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Title: Acquisition Narrative: Whiteread, 2006.69
Since 1988, the British artist Rachel Whiteread has been casting objects from her domestic environment to create large-scale sculptures and installations. These works transform negative space into positive form and serve as intense formal studies of how humans relate to the spaces around them. Early in her career, she primarily cast household furniture in a scale directly proportional to the body, including tables, closets, bathtubs, and mattresses. In 1993, Whiteread made the widely-acclaimed House, a cast of a condemned house in London's East End. Since then, she has been casting larger architectural structures including staircases and interiors of homes, reducing the intimacy of her work while imbuing it with a new monumental intensity. In every case, by exposing the negative spaces of objects and places, Whiteread reveals something unseen, turning private into public and inside into outside. The materials used to create her sculptures, such as plaster, wax, and resin or other synthetic materials, are those traditionally associated with the constructions of the molds themselves. Far from being perfect or "specific objects," her sculptures are unique and irregular, with tactile, marked, and sometimes asymmetrical surfaces and shapes which record the character and history of the objects from which they came. Referring to rituals of life and death, sometimes literally (such as in her casts of mortuary slabs) and often metaphorically (such as with CMA's Untitled (Yellow Bath) (1991)), her work presents complex notions of presence and absence, memory and loss, and the relationship of the body to forms in space. Untitled (Domestic), 2002, is an important example of her current oeuvre. Whiteread has been preoccupied with staircases for over ten years and she has said that casting them requires the culmination of techniques from her entire career. This particular work was cast from an interior staircase in the Haunch of Venison, a London-based gallery sited in a three-story, 18th-century building, previously the home of Admiral Lord Nelson. It represents a significant departure from her previous casts in which she created molds directly from objects and cast them without manipulation. In this instance, as in her other staircase sculptures, Whiteread created molds from the gallery and erected these in her studio so that she could rearrange the forms, thus removing the assembled sculpture from its obligation of "architectural correctness" (to quote Susanna Greeves in her essay for the exhibition). The result is a marvelously disorienting agglomeration of stairs and angles, a powerful sculpture which suggests nothing less than an alternate universe where inside is outside and all stairs could lead equally to anywhere or nowhere.
Date: 2006
Purpose: acquisition narrative
Author: Fogle, Douglas - CMOA

Artist Bio

Rachel Whiteread was born in London, England, in 1963, where she currently lives and works. She received her MA from the Slade School of Fine Art in 1987 and won the prestigious Turner Prize in 1993. Her Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) (1995) was featured in the Scaife Gallery in the 1995 Carnegie International and her work represented Britain in the 1997 Venice Biennial. She has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions including at the Tate Modern, London (2005-2006); Gagosian Gallery, London (2005); Luhring Augustine, New York (2003); Haunch of Venison, London, and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (both in 2004), and the Serpentine Gallery, London (2001). She has also been included in a number of group shows (in addition to those mentioned above) at venues including the Wexner Center for the Arts (2006); The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (both in 2004); SITE Santa Fe and Tate Britain (both in 2003); the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (2002), and The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2001-2002).

[extracted from acquisition proposal, 2006]