I had the opportunity to attend the media preview of the Rachel Whiteread special exhibit at the Saint Louis Art Museum. In the museum business, we often remark that when a special exhibit first opens, there’s a crush of press, but then everybody forgets about it for the remaining three months (the standard length of special exhibits). So I wanted to let you know there is still a whole month left of the exhibit, until June 9th, to see one of the more interesting contemporary artists to be exhibited in St. Louis in a long time.
Whiteread made her name taking concrete casts of the interior of buildings and other shapes, and I find her work intriguing in a city such as St. Louis with so much abandonment. In her more recent work, she has continued to delve into what we call “negative space” in art, which is the space not occupied by forms, such as the space inside a hot water bottle or the space underneath chairs, which you can see below.
Whiteread came of age in a Great Britain that recovered from what was technically a victory in World War II, but was yet still devastated in urban, economic and sociological ways. In some aspects, her investigations of post-War Great Britain could very well have taken place in St. Louis; here we have a city that is technically growing, albeit at an incredibly slow pace, was instrumental in the United States’ victory in World War II (billions if not trillions of rounds of ammunition and other armaments were made here during the war), but yet our urban core looks as if it was on the losing side in 1945. I asked the artist what her impression of the city was, and she said it seemed so empty. I could not agree more: huge, six-lane boulevards, devoid of traffic, and miles upon miles of empty neighborhoods. Our city is currently at one-thirds capacity, at least.
Go check out Rachel Whiteread at the Saint Louis Art Museum. It is well worth it.
Rachel Whiteread, English, born 1963; “Due Porte”, 2016; resin (two panels); each panel: 100 3/8 x 24 3/16 x 4 ¾ inches; Galleria Lorcan O’Neill © Rachel Whiteread 2018
Rachel Whiteread, English, born 1963; “LOOK, LOOK, LOOK”, 2012; resin (three panels); overall: 74 5/8 × 15 9/16 × 5 7/8 inches; Private collection. Image courtesy the artist and Mike Bruce.
Rachel Whiteread, English, born 1963; “Untitled (Pink Torso)”, 1995; pink dental plaster; overall: 3 15/16 x 6 7/8 x 10 13/16 inches; Courtesy of the artist. Image courtesy the artist/ Gagosian, London/ Luhring Augustine, New York/ Galleria Lorcan O’Neill
Rachel Whiteread, English, born 1963; “Untitled (Violet)”, 2012; silver lead, cardboard, celluloid and graphite on paper; overall: 16 9/16 × 11 5/8 inches; Galleria Lorcan O’Neill. Image courtesy the artist/ Gagosian, London/ Luhring Augustine, New York/ Galleria Lorcan O’Neill