Art: Rachel Whiteread

Art Exhibition


Everything in the Rachel Whiteread exhibition at Tate Britain makes you want to reach out and prod it. Bulbous hot water bottle-shaped “Torsos” – lovingly referred to by the artist as her “headless, limbless babies” – made from wax, aluminium leaf, plaster and rubber. A seemingly squidgy concrete mattress, leaning nonchalantly against a wall. A door made from blue-grey resin that resembles a rolled-out block of uncooked jelly. No wonder the motion sensors around the works are always beeping.

London-born and raised Whiteread – the first woman to win Tate’s Turner Prize – uses everything from plaster to pulverised paper to cast her sculptures. The difference between her technique and that of traditional sculptors? Instead of replicating an object, she casts the space inside or around it.

Whiteread’s subjects are everyday or architectural forms: tables and chairs, windows and doors, staircases and floors. Whether big or small, they make you appreciate the world around you and admire a woman who isn’t afraid of the ordinary.

This open-plan exhibition invites the viewer to weave his or her own path between three decades of Whiteread’s sculpture, including photographs of her public projects – the first of which was a concrete cast of the inside of a Victorian terraced house in east London. In the Duveen Galleries is a stepping stone-like installation of resin casts of the undersides of chairs while outside, perched in the green Millbank Garden, is a stark, concrete chicken shed.

Until 21 January 2016.

Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG.

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