Rachel Whiteread, Haunch of Venison
Though she came to prominence at the same historical moment as Damien Hirst, Gary Hume and the other “Young British Artists”, Rachel Whiteread, now 39, has always been somewhat different, making quieter work, unconcerned with shock or popular culture. Since 1990 she has been making casts, usually in plaster or resin, of the negative spaces formed by domestic objects and buildings.
In 1993 she won the Turner Prize for House, her concrete cast of the entire interior of a derelict and condemned council house in east London, an elegy, she claimed, for the failed project of post-war social housing. The exterior walls were pulled down to reveal the massive block of concrete inside that bore the “negative” imprint of the shape and fixtures of the rooms. A furore arose when the local council pulled it down, despite the protestations of a multitude of art-lovers. Last year Whiteread again entered the public consciousness, though in gentler circumstances, with Monument, her piece for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, a translucent cast of the plinth that some likened to a large Fox’s Glacier Mint.
One large new work, along with two well-known older pieces, are on show at the inaugural exhibition in the new central London gallery, Haunch of Venison. The new piece, Untitled (Domestic), is a cast of the fire escape staircases of Haunch of Venison’s premises. Made from white plaster and more than seven metres high and six metres in length, it fills the gallery’s largest room. Through the combination of its minimalist aesthetic with its domestic subject matter, Whiteread’s work has always resonated with both abstract and more human meaning. Here, although the fire escapes are modern additions, the work conjures up the rich past of a building that was once home to Nelson, who recuperated there after losing an arm in the Battle of Santa Cruz.
Also on display are two seminal works that were formerly part of Saatchi’s collection and featured in the Sensation show at the Royal Academy. Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) consists of 100 green, amber and yellow translucent resin casts of the spaces under different chairs. Particularly effective when bathed in natural light, it creates beauty from domestic nothingness. Similarly, Untitled (Orange Bath), an orange rubber cast of the space underneath an iron bathtub, effortlessly succeeds in dignifying the domestic.
Until 21 December. Information: 020 7495 5050.