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Rachels Whiteread's Dramatic Installation, Place (Village) at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Place (Village), 2006–08, Rachel Whiteread (British, born in 1963), Rachel Whiteread Exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Doll houses, crates, boxes, wood, electrical fixtures, and fittings, and electricity. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery, London. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

BOSTON.- Haunting and yet familiar are the works of renowned sculptor Rachel Whiteread. Themes of absence and memory are embodied in her interpretations of everyday, domestic objects and their overlooked “negative” spaces—the interior of a closet, the section of a floor, or the hollow of a chair. An exploration of the artist’s innovative use of the unseen areas that complement an object’s identity is presented in Rachel Whiteread, an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). On view through January 25, 2009, it is Whiteread’s first solo museum show in the United States since the presentation of two sculptures in 2002 at the Guggenheim Museum, as well as the American premiere of her dramatic new installation Place (Village) (2006–2008, Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery). The exhibition includes six additional sculptural pieces and 15 rarely seen drawings by the British contemporary artist. Rachel Whiteread is generously funded by The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, with additional support from the Catherine and Paul Buttenwieser Fund, the Robert and Jane Burke Fund for Exhibitions, anonymous donors, and Irma Fisher Mann.

The highlight of Rachel Whiteread is an assemblage of approximately 200 vintage dollhouses—all hand-made in a variety of architectural styles and averaging three feet tall—which the artist collected during the past 20 years. Titled Place (Village), this sculptural interpretation evokes reminders of the past as preserved in a sprawling hillside “community” of quaint homes, each with its own story to tell. Assembled in a darkened room of the MFA’s Foster Gallery, the houses are lit from within, but deserted—their emptiness evoking haunting memories and melancholy.

“Rachel Whiteread gives meaning to the empty spaces of our lives as she explores the poignant connections that exist among objects, history, and time,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. “As one of today’s most important sculptors, she is recognized for the humanity of her works, ranging from the profound and personal to monumental and public. We are pleased to offer the US premiere of her newest installation, Place (Village).”

The artist has been making sculpture primarily through the process of casting—using plaster, rubber, resin, and sprayed concrete—ever since her graduation from London's Slade School of Fine Art in 1987. Individual sculptures by Whiteread, displayed in an adjacent room of the MFA gallery, serve as counterpoint to the installation. A lighter palette sets the tone, as select examples of interior objects are presented, from an early floor piece in rubber and a cast of a door, to more recent “stacks” cast from the interiors of tattered boxes, suggesting the deconstruction of comfort, home, and memory. These works include: Untitled (Amber Floor) (1993, Courtesy of Luhring Augustine, New York), a rubber cast of a floor section; Double-Doors II (A+B) (2006–2007, Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery), two panels in plasticized plaster with interior aluminum framework; and Cabinet XI (2007, Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery), a cast of a cabinet made out of metal and plaster. Rarely seen drawings from throughout Whiteread’s career also are on view, as well as five created for Place (Village), which have never been exhibited. Drawings include: Study for Wax Floor (1992, Collection The Museum of Modern Art, New York), a work in oil, crayon, correction fluid, felttipped pen and pencil on graph paper; Inside Upstairs (2004, Collection Tony and Gail Ganz, Los Angeles), a collage in gouache and pencil on paper; Study for “House” (1991, Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery), a work in acrylic and correction fluid on graph paper; and Village I (2007, Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery), a collage on paper made by Whiteread for her installation Place (Village).

Whiteread (b. 1963), the first woman to receive Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize (1993), is recognized internationally as one of the leading contemporary sculptors for her outstanding public works. The artist’s 1990 breakthrough piece, Ghost (formerly in the Saatchi Gallery and acquired in 2004 by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC), is a plaster cast of a typical Victorian house such as the one in which she grew up, and her 1993 commission by Artangel, Trust, London, resulted in the ambitious and controversial House, made by casting the actual interior of a condemned East London flat that was later demolished by official decree. Other acclaimed public works include Water Tower Project (1998), with the Public Art Fund in New York; Holocaust Memorial (2000) in Judenplatz, Vienna; Monument, Fourth Plinth Project (2001), in Trafalgar Square London; and Embankment, presented in 2005 as the annual Unilever installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

“Rachel Whiteread has created a critical body of work that addresses our presence, relationships, and the power of the past,” said exhibition curator Cheryl Brutvan, the MFA’s Robert L. Beal, Enid L., and Bruce A. Beal Curator of Contemporary Art and Head of the Department of Contemporary Art. “Her sculpture is rigorous, both conceptually and formally, evolving from the tenets of Minimalism, and each work resonates with a depth of psychological and emotional meaning.”

Whiteread will travel to Boston for the opening of the exhibition at the MFA. A podcast of an interview with the artist will be produced by the Museum.

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