Point of View: Allegra Pesenti

Best known for transforming empty spaces into solid masses, the British artist Rachel Whiteread, 46, rose to stardom in the 1990s with her ethereal resin casts. Now her two-dimensional pieces are getting their first airing in "Rachel Whiteread: Drawings," on view at the Hammer Museum, in Los Angeles, from January 31 through May 3. Featuring works on paper, sculpture and other objects spanning more than two decades, the show will travel from L.A. to Dallas’s Nasher Sculpture Center and then the Tate Britain in London. Its curator, Allegra Pesenti, of the Hammer Museum, spoke with Andrew Russeth.

"Whiteread is thought of as a sculptor, but it’s never been disclosed that drawing is actually a vital part of her practice. In her studio, she even has two separate rooms — one for sculpting, one for drawing — and she works in the two mediums in parallel, though independently. In the case of her Water Tower (1998), for instance, she used drawings to show how to cast the work, transport it and color the resin, but she also drew very beautiful images of it on top of photographs of the building against the skyline.

"These drawings serve as her intimate diary. Many of her site-specific works have been destroyed, like House (1993), or displaced, like Plinth (2001), which once stood in Trafalgar Square, so her drawings can help trace her career development. While visiting her London studio in preparation for this exhibition, I learned that she accumulates found objects that inform her work, ranging from sticks to dental casts to shoe stretchers, many of which she picked up on trips with her father, who was a geography teacher.


"Rachel has compared these found and collected objects to sketchbooks. They thus belong to an extended notion of draftsmanship, whereby the act of thinking and preparing a work of art is not only expressed on paper but is also reflected in three- dimensional objects. The study extends from paper to object. For Rachel these objects act as memories, in much the same way as her drawings do, and influence her sculpture similarly. More than 200 of these very personal, biographical items are shown in vitrines, alongside sculptures from local collectors."

"Point of View: Allegra Pesenti" originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of Art+Auction. For a complete list of articles from this issue available on ARTINFO, see Art+Auction's January 2010 Table of Contents.