“Casting Negative Space” with Rachel Whiteread

This year at NAEA 2012 I was inspired by the Educators from the National Gallery of ArtThey shared a presentation called “Casting Negative Space” about the work of Rachel Whiteread.

Whiteread is one of the few artists of her generation to have produced monumental public sculptures. In 1993 she was awarded the Turner Prize just after creating House (1993; destr. 1994, see House) a life-sized replica of the interior of a condemned terraced house in London’s East End made by spraying liquid concrete into the building’s empty shell before its external walls were removed. House was a monument to lost domestic space and to a whole way of life, evoking the former occupants through their very absence and through the entombment of the space. Its controversial creation and destruction made it a focus for public debate about the role of contemporary art. Octavia Nicholson From Grove Art Online © 2009 Oxford University Press

I had seen Whiteread’s work before in grad school but was really drawn to the educators ability to articulate the meaning and message behind Whiteread’s work. They simplified the artist’s process to something that Upper or Middle School student would be able to carry out in a short period of time. Their workshop ran from start to finish over the course of a Saturday for several hours. With my 40 minute periods I have been able to work every day for the past two weeks with my 3D Art class and really extend the content and quality of work. My class started off viewing the presentation (“Casting Negative Space”) and a video about Whiteread.

The following class they opened their sketchbooks and began planning the interior spaces they would create. They traced a 4″ x 4″ square of tagboard 5 times in their sketchbook. Each side of their interior space needed to be addressed in someway. Students used the four sides as walls and the fifth as either the floor or the ceiling. Several students are attempting to create a six-sided creation by pushing into the top of their plaster before it sets.

We then tested out some Sculptamold left by a previous teacher in recycled containers . It didn’t seem to mix well or cure. I found myself dumping water off the tops of the molds to get them to dry out. It was an excellent teachable moment for the students to see that you should always test a process before you use it on a project that you have spent hours creating. After the not so successful attempt I modeled the proper technique and safety precautions (mask, glove, goggles) of mixing plaster and poured a test mold. The students were chatting away about the exothermic reaction happening to the plaster as it cured. Which is why, as a precaution one should never use plaster directly on the skin.

The following class I demonstrated and recorded a video of myself pouring plaster into my actual piece. Allowing it to set up, and then peeling away the mold, which as you may have guessed can only be used once.

4 responses to ““Casting Negative Space” with Rachel Whiteread

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