Good drawing teachers encourage their students to conjure up what isn’t there. Instead of training the aspiring artists in their classes to delineate solids, they help them to develop a heightened awareness of the often ignored negative spaces between things, urging concentration on evoking unseen voids and implied volumes. It’s not easy to create expressive drawings of invisible entities. It’s difficult to take as a starting point a subject that cannot be studied directly or even imagined but must instead be deduced from the elements that surround it. It’s hard, that is to say, to make the unseen visible. Yet without this kind of challenge, students usually achieve nothing more than mere depictions—uninspired renderings, unworthy of being called drawings.

When Whiteread is at her best, she not only sharpens our perceptions but...


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