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EXHIBITION Still making it strikingly strange

Rachel Whiteread’s installations continue to surprise by transforming the familIar into the startling, says MICHAL BONCZA

Rachel Whiteread: Internal Objects
Gagosian, London

FROM the famed House, which won her the 1993 Turner Prize, to the Room and the “silent library” of the Holocaust memorial in Vienna and The Cabin, Rachel Whiteread’s artistic impulse has been in rearticulating the spatial commonplace into something very different.

In her work, exterior surfaces are accentuated by the reversed-out features of window recesses, doorways or fireplaces — both an open invitation to contemplate the transfiguration of the familiar and an encouragement to look anew and perceive the barely perceptible. There is a robust physical solidity to these spaces, which seem sealed for all eternity — time stands still.

The present exhibition, which includes two installations entitled Poltergeist and Doppelganger, confirms how close Whiteread adheres to the visual idioms of the of the everyday.

Both are just sheds that have known better times, prompting the question whether one is a perhaps a reflection of ourselves and the other our ghostly shadow.

Painted in immaculate white to the last detail, they eliminate visual noise and there’s a silence, an an almost outer-space quality, to the purity of that monochrome.

But these also are three-dimensional selfies, snaps of an arrested single moment in the irreversible passage of time that will eventually merely leave dereliction and finally dust in its wake — no glorious Roman or Greek ruins here, no Machu Picchu, Petra, Borobudur or Great Zimbabwe.

The textures and shapes are ordinary remnants of wood and corrugated iron sheets that affirm the familiar, tinged maybe with a melancholy over an apparent abandonment that signals an end of a life cycle, one in which every single element is as intimate as it is ordinary and, ultimately, marginal.

There is an immanent sense of human fragility. Nature has already begun its task of reclaiming what is hers and there’s no pathos, grandiose aesthetics, philosophical convulsions or theoretical contortions to Whiteread’s eloquent yet matter-of-fact statement.

It is all the more powerful for that and, as an inescapable realisation that all things must pass, it’s a suggestive memento mori for our time.

Ends June 6, opening times and access: gagosian.com.

 

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