While she has cast everything from ordinary objects to the spaces under stairs in concrete, perhaps the most impressive and controversial work by installation artist and sculptor Rachel Whiteread is simply titled House. Like a photographic negative, it inverts the relationship of solid and void, making rock-hard reality out of empty interior space while disappearing the cumbersome walls, floors, ceilings, steps and roof that are the normal hallmarks of our domestic enclosures.
This townhouse, already slated for demolition, was the last of its kind on the block – already a stand-alone object in a desolate land. Her work could be considered a piece of deconstruction in the postmodern sense, pun either intended or not. The reverse-construction of this structure involved layers of scaffolding and liquid concrete carefully sprayed into every nook and cranny of the building before being left to set. Then the structural elements were pealed away, leaving only the filled void behind in solid cast concrete.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this unlikely home-to-art conversion had a galvanizing effect on surrounding communities. The piece itself was regarded with mixed praise and criticism and won several awards, but much was also made of what it meant conceptually to displaced people and disregarded homes and demolished works of historic architecture.