Artist Spotlight: Rachel Whiteread

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

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House, by: Rachel Whiteread

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Nameless Library Holocaust Memorial, by: Rachel Whiteread

When Michelangelo sculpted David, it can be safely assumed that he gave considerable thought to the physical characteristics of his masterpiece, but as it turns out, not all sculptors focus on the object of their work.

At first, this sounds like an artistic paradox but works created by Rachel Whiteread represent how the artist can make a powerful statement by focusing on the negative space surrounding an object or the emptiness that lies within.

Born in 1963, in London Whiteread was raised by an artist mother and a teacher father. Her mother’s work and later death had an enormous impact on her. She creates sculptures by filling empty spaces inside objects or by recreating the original form through casts. The minimalistic and stark nature of her work is meant to inspire contemplation and meditation.

This exploration of space to evoke thought can be seen perfectly in her, “Nameless Library” sculpture. It is an impenetrable library, turned inward. The work was created for the Holocaust Memorial in Vienna to commemorate Austrian Jews who died during WWII. The stark nature of this work, steeped in symbolic and literal emptiness.

While “Nameless Library” focused on empty space within an object, her most well known work titled, “House” focused on the space surrounding it. Whiteread filled a condemned home in London’s East End with concrete. The home was demolished later that year as her work stood, a monument to the destroyed building. This created a powerful statement about London’s management of the poorest neighborhoods. It was for this work that she received the Turner Prize, United Kingdom’s highest artistic honor.

Regarded by many as England’s most influential contemporary artist, Whiteread alters the audiences perception of each objects she creates. The context of filling or recreating the empty spaces gives them another meaning and in this achievement is where her true genius lies.

She is not a sculptor molding an object, she an artist with the power to mold thoughts with her craft.

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Artist Spotlight: Alexis Laurent

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Dandelions, by: Alexis Laurent

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La Ville, by: Alexis Laurent

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

As anyone who has visited France knows, one of most prolific French experiences is admiring the Art Nouveau influences on Paris’ cityscape, from the famed Eiffel Tower to the intricate iron handrails on staircases.

San Francisco resident and France native, Alexis Laurent seeks to capture this marriage of art, nature and urban landscapes in his contemporary works. He molds dark metal into soft organic shapes, attaches plants to iron beams or combines all three on rough patches of asphalt. His paintings complete this vision with soft cubic shapes, blurring lines and organic colors.

When Laurent was a little boy growing up in the French countryside, he helped his father build their home with his bare hands. It was that experience and years spent assisting his artist parent’s in their metalworking workshop that laid the early foundations of a career as an internationally recognized painter, sculptor and self-described “urbanist”.

Laurent contemplates spaces much like an architect. He sees the merging of industrial and organic elements as a natural way to bring art to cities and make art part of the urban landscape.

After graduating with International Relations degrees from Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris, France and the University of Wisconsin, Laurent enjoyed a successful business career. But he realized that the business world was not for him. So, he took his American wife and daughter, and moved them back to France for three years to paint and nourish his passions.

Upon his return to San Francisco he bought an abandoned sweatshop warehouse in the gritty Mission District and transformed it into his personal studio and gallery. Inside, an entire living wall of iron and dessert plants dominates one gallery wall, and a giant conceptual saw made entirely of wood greets visitors at the entrance.

Laurent is adamant that the world must adapt to the idea of cities as landscapes and even works of art. While he acknowledged that it’s taken centuries for European cities to reach that point, he thinks that it is imperative to achieve this quickly in the United States.

For Laurent, it’s not a question of artistic pride but rather an elegant solution to the problem of rapid urbanization and population growth, so that future generations may enjoy their surroundings.

To learn more about Alexis Laurent’s work visit:

www.alexislaurent.com