Friday, September 17, 2010

Master of plaster - Rachel Whiteread

For some reason I just recently looked further into the amazing, solid world of Rachel Whiteread.
In the beginning of the 1990s she basically cast all the voids she could find - empty houses, inflated mattresses, the space under furnitures, behind book shelves, you name it.

Of course what she did, tells stories of what those spaces are about and adds narrative aspects to casting into molds. It's about time that I add a few images and some words someone else has written:
[Rachel Whiteread: Untitled (Nine Tables) 1998]

Untitled (Stairs)2001 - from Tate Advent Calendar [the image above is of tables and not of chairs, sorry]

"Chosen by Jo Fells - "I first saw this in a show in Edinburgh, it reminded me of how I love to sit on the stairs and used to play under the stairs in the broom cupboard - Whiteread's work gets me thinking about spaces we don't often consider, under the chair, the bed, the texture of the walls, the space under the stairs. For me that's what art is about - a trigger to make you see the world through new eyes."
Jo Fells, Museum of London

object: 3750 x 220 x 5800 mm


[Rachel Whiteread: House, 1993]

About House, Whiteread's most famous piece - For Damon Hyldreth, he sees,

“…a reversal of an enclosing, comforting, dwelling, a place of repose and comfort, a symbol of domestic hopes and dreams. What was left was a monument to one’s most private moments but with the privacy stripped bare and petrified. “House” monumentalized the past in a subversive manner, instead of allowing for a connection to and retrieval of the past, “House” subverted the warm cozy memories of home.”
I found the quote in a longer post about the cast house spaces on the Imoralist blog here.

[Spaces between book shelves, Plaster - the dye on the back of cheap paperbacks has transferred into the plaster, it seems]

["One Hundred Spaces", Recin casts of spaces under chairs]

Wikipedia informs us:
For the Sensation exhibition in 1997, Whiteread exhibited Untitled (One Hundred Spaces), a series of resin casts of the space underneath chairs. This work can be seen as a descendant of Bruce Nauman's concrete cast of the area under his chair of 1965.
The critical response included:
"like a field of large glace sweets, it is her most spectacular, and benign installation to date [...] Monuments to domesticity, they are like solidified jellies, opalescent ice-cubes, or bars of soap — lavender, rose, spearmint, lilac. They look like a regulated graveyard or a series of futuristic standing stones with a passing resemblance to television sets."[7]
— Andrew Lambirth, The Spectator, October 12, 1996.

[Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Air Bed II) 1992

Polyurethane rubber. Object: 1220 x 1970 x 230 mm,sculpture. Tate ]

The Tate site tells us more more:
"Whiteread's sculptures are casts of carefully chosen objects, most of which bear the traces of human use. She most often casts the 'negative' spaces around these objects, which then become the 'positive' form of the sculpture. Often the objects recall poignant events; her recent group of bed casts can be associated with sleep, illness and dying. This work adds another dimension to the group of bed casts, with its combination of solid sculptural form and associations of air-filled fragility. Here, the mould containing the air mattress during the casting process has become part of the work, enclosing the Lilo within its box-like shape.
 (From the display caption August 2004)"
It was this last piece that I was reminded of, when I came across concrete furniture cast in pvc inflatables, namely furniture by designers Tejo Remy & René Veenhuizen.
[Chair and bench cast in pvc]

A blog post on Dezeen informs us on the process of casting :"a series of furniture that appears to be made of inflated fabric, but actually is made from poured concrete. Remy & Veenhuizen cast each prototype as a single piece in individual molds created from waterproof PVC or plastic sheeting. Once assembled, the molds are placed upside down and concrete is poured into the feet. The legs are steel reinforced and the concrete itself contains small metal fibers that add stability. Within two days the works are solid enough for the mold to be cut off; and, within two weeks, the furniture is completely dry.

The pieces were exhibited in the designers' first solo exhibition in the spring of 2010 at Industry Gallery


  1. At "100% design" in London there were a lot of concrete designs, Among these were a chesterfield from greyconcrete (
    I do not know how they have casted it, but it might be the same technic as above

  2. Hi Morten - The couch is cool but I believe it was made sort-of old-fashioned - I think they first poured rubber over the real, old, worn couch to create the perfect, original form and surface - and then cast the couch in the rubber mold - that's what I heard - and what the couch looks like to me, any way:)

    Did you get to sit in it? Bet it shakes the conception of a 'nice softlooking couch'...


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