Rachel Whiteread’s work identifies the space between memory and experience. Since the late 1980s, Whiteread has used resin, rubber and, as in Untitled, dental plaster to cast overlooked domestic spaces. Like earlier works by Bruce Nauman and Joseph Beuys, rather than replicating the object itself, Whiteread specializes in the sculptural reversal that makes a solid object speak less of its own material presence than of objects that are no longer present. Moulding not the object itself but the area in or around it, her ordered, slab-like transformations of familiar forms and spaces recall Minimalist sculpture, but in place of Minimalism’s impersonal soul, she creates works infused with the traces of human existence that appeal to our sense of collective memory and history.
Fundamentally, Whiteread’s work is a description of absence: a concept rife with innuendo in today’s fragmented society. Untitled is one of a series of works related to the ‘Holocaust Memorial’ in Vienna, designed by Whiteread and inaugurated in 2000. There, the artist inverted a room-sized library-once common to Viennese homes-by casting the space between pages of books and surrounding shelves. The absent volumes nevertheless leave the imprint of their unique dimensions and coloured page ends, suggesting both the personal stories of the approximately 66,000 Austrian Jews (traditionally identified as "People of the Book") who perished during the Holocaust and the general devastation of World War II.
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