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Hammer to Present First Drawings Retrospective of British Artist Rachel Whiteread
Rachel Whiteread, "Study for House", 1992. Private Collection. ©Rachel Whiteread.
LOS ANGELES, CA.- This winter the Hammer Museum presents a retrospective of drawings by Rachel Whiteread, the first large-scale museum survey of work on paper by the British artist. Organized by Allegra Pesenti, curator of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, this exhibition includes key examples of the artist’s sculpture displayed alongside her drawings. The exhibition features 155 drawings, 8 sculptures, and a vitrine filled with roughly 200 objects selected by Whiteread. Although her sculpture is well-known and widely published, Whiteread’s work on paper has remained largely behind the scenes until now.

“My drawings are a diary of my work,” Whiteread explains, and like the passages in a diary her drawings range from fleeting ideas to labored reflections. They are produced independently of the sculpture yet are critical to her artistic practice and evoke similarly poignant notions of absence and presence. The exhibition is laid out chronologically and the sections relate thematically to Whiteread’s principal sculptural projects such as Floors, Beds and Mattresses, House, Holocaust Memorial, Water Tower, and Trafalgar Square Plinth. The exhibition covers the full expanse of her career to date. Rachel Whiteread Drawings travels to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas, from May 22 to August 15, 2010; and to Tate Britain in London from September 8, 2010, to January 16, 2011.

“At the Hammer we have a particular interest in drawings and their key relationship to an artist’s practice and thought process. Rachel Whiteread’s drawings impart tremendous skill and sensitivity and offer another view of her complex and fascinating body of work,” comments Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin. “We are honored to work with Rachel and to organize the first museum exhibition that closely examines this relatively little known aspect of her artmaking.”

While her drawings are of a more intimate nature than the sculptures, they share a similar patina that is alternatively glossy, grainy, mottled, slippery, transparent, fragile, and bold. Whiteread uses thick glazes of correction fluid and acrylic, which often causes the paper to undulate and turns the drawings into three-dimensional objects. The colored background of graph paper is another distinctive characteristic of her drawings. Whiteread’s sculptures such as House and Bath capture the traces of other people’s lives, while the traces of her own hand are reserved for her drawings. She seizes memories in all her work, but in the drawings those captured moments are her own: “With each drawing, I have an ability to recall where I did that drawing and the circumstance of its making,” she specifies. “It is as if the drawing absorbed the time of its making.”

“As a place where painting and sculpture meet,” says exhibition curator Allegra Pesenti, “drawing allows Whiteread to expand the boundaries between media. There is a sheer necessity of drawing in Whiteread’s practice. One medium seldom leads to another in her work, but rather her practices can morph—the drawings are as sculptural as the sculptures are graphic.”

Whiteread’s dedication to drawing began early in her career, in 1992-1993, during a pivotal artist’s residency in Berlin in which she developed central elements of her sculpture and drawing practice. The result of this residency was the first and, until now, the last museum exhibition dedicated to her drawings. However, her work on paper has continued to evolve in the years since and remains a crucial aspect of her art. The importance of this practice and its parallel relation to Whiteread’s sculptural work are reflected in the layout of her current workspace where a dedicated drawing studio is detached from the sculpture studio. The exhibition explores the thematic connections between her sculptures and her drawings. Projects featured include House (1993) a monumental cast of a nineteenth-century terrace house in the East End of London for which she won Britain’s Turner Prize, the Water Tower (1998) which graced the skyline of downtown New York, Vienna’s Holocaust Memorial (2000), Monument (2001) created for the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square, and Embankment (2005-2006) installed in the Tate Modern’s vast Turbine Hall.

Among the special features of the installation is a vitrine reminiscent of a “cabinet of curiosities” filled with objects selected by the artist. The found objects and souvenirs were gathered by Whiteread from various sources such as attics, thrift stores, and more recently eBay. She compares the objects to sketchbooks and, as such, they are central to her thought process and creative practice. The vitrine includes fossils, dental molds, a box of buttons, shoe forms, and other items together with small casts and works by the artist. A separate case will include a selection of work by Whiteread based on found postcards. As a group, these objects belong to Whiteread’s collection of captured memories and, ultimately, to her expanded notion of drawing.


Hammer Museum | Rachel Whiteread | Allegra Pesenti |


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