Rachel Whiteread
Line Up, 2007–08. Plaster, pigment, resin, wood, and metal (18 units, 1 shelf), overall: 17 x 90 x 25 cm. Photo: © Rachel Whiteread, Courtesy the artist and Mike Bruce

Object Lessons: Rachel Whiteread

Line Up—literally a line of these things—plays a bit with scale and the line that goes around a paper roll almost like a drawing. These small shelf pieces came after having made a lot of very large work with a lot of assistants. I was really missing the hands-on feel of just working in the studio. There are a lot of aspects that were part of my usual practice, but there’s freedom as well. Over the years, I’d been not exactly conservative about color, but I had particular rules. I would only use materials that had color in them as part of their surface. Here, I added pigment to the plaster and resin and started to use different kinds of resin. The particular resin in Line Up came from sugar—I was trying to find something non-toxic. Unfortunately I was never able to cast very large things with it, because it was too unstable.

It was really time to play. I had a young family and a lot of mess around. I’d been collecting all this stuff—and I still do—and I’d make little molds and cast things up, without necessarily having any idea what I was going to do with them. I would put them on trolleys and leave them by the radiator to dry. It was a very slow and contemplative process. I would then make still lifes with the objects. I had a beautiful, very light studio, and it was such a pleasure to go down in the morning and have all of these things that I had liked and made, to enjoy the materiality of them, their surface and structure, and to play with them.

A comprehensive survey exhibition of Rachel Whiteread’s work is on view at the Saint Louis Art Museum through June 9, 2019.