Why is Rachel Whiteread so compelling? Is it the purity of vision? The clean lines? Is it the way she physicalizes negative space? How she sees the potential of nothing? Her new show, at the Luhring Augustine gallery in Chelsea had a Pottery Barn feel to it: shelves of simple two tone objects. Another feature, seams. A reminder of Erin Moure’s attention to this in her poetry. How things are folded in, folded over, tucked, so much of what holds space together is so flimsy. The title of this new show is “Bibliography”, and in this sense is about containment and containers. Open boxes on chairs, under tables, always as Whiteread does, taking our eye to the place we’re trained not to go. The way Whitread physicalizes the negative has a morbid feel. The funereal plaster molds, solid, sereneness.
The folds of cardboard above, on the other hand, felt to me like elegies for our time. But perhaps this has more to do with my ongoing fascination with impermanence, my childhood of boxing and unboxing. In any case, Whiteread has put her finger on a pulse here and I’ve been fascinated by her ever since the Sensation Show at the Brooklyn Museum. Nothing has quite had the impact of “Untitled (One-Hundred Spaces)” (1995), the resin castings of the spaces underneath 100 chairs, which seemed a kind of towering monument to domesticity, to me, it seemed so female. The full-sized house she did a few years back–I think it was at The Whitney? And then last fall, the chess pieces I posted on here.
Chelsea is archival this winter. Another show, gorgeous paintings of documents and folios. Again, clean lines and startling crimson book binding. This by a Chinese artist now living in Philadelphia. More on those later this week.