Magazine article Artforum International

Rachel Whiteread

Magazine article Artforum International

Rachel Whiteread

Article excerpt

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART

With casts that are vulnerable variations of seemingly mundane and mute objects, Rachel Whiteread creates poignant and melancholy phantoms. Her skewed selection of themes from domestic life, her inventive and poetic use of rather surprising materials, and her thoughtful and unexpected installation of these pieces gives them a decided resonance. Whiteread echoes her subjects, but in her system of altered repetition she both displaces and intensifies meaning. Beds--or more accurately, martresses--are the foundation for half the pieces in this smallish overview. In every case the mattress is divorced from its function: either cast in two parts stacked on top of one another, or placed as if propped up against a wall, or set up vertically. The mattress as a site of a much assailed and private activity is decontextualized only to be reinvested with ambiguous content. In Untitled (Double Amber Bed), 1991, a mattress cast in rubber and high-density foam leans against a wall, as if seeking a state of rest. Its awkward pose causes its internal architecture to manifest itself: its surface erupts in a constellation of cascading rivulets and regular tactile protrusions, a profile rather alien to the idea of rest. The sepia tone and somewhat battered air of this piece appear to indicate that this is a mold of a mattress that has done its earthly duty, and is now inexorably invested with the memory of those who reclined and/or dallied upon it. Untitled (Yellow Bed, Two Parts), 1991, is a child's bed, its smaller scale and stained surface evocative of both fragility and the mattress' function as a silent record of such misfortunes as bedwetting. …

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