Tara Donovan's Untitled (2009) is an arrangement of translucent, apparently honeycombed, material set within a rectangular cutout in a wall and consists of 2,500 pounds of plastic sheeting loosely folded over and over onto itself until the material's elusive color, texture, and weight emerge. Viewers are able to walk around the piece and see through it from the building lobby or from the Park Avenue sidewalk. "You can see people moving on either side," Donovan said, "It actually creates a very kaleidoscopic sort of effect."
Like many of her pieces, this one began with a visit several years ago to an industrial surplus store where Donovan bought a roll of plastic sheeting, hundreds of pounds worth, for about $10, she said, "because I thought it might be handy around the studio.... eventually I needed a bunch of the plastic for something else I was doing√¢?¬¶. I was spooling it off, and I thought, √¢??Oh, that's actually really interesting, the way it folds on itself.' A lot of times, things are discovered in accidental ways."
Tara Donovan is an inventive young sculptor whose installations bring wonder to the most common objects of everyday life. Donovan's site-specific, sculptural works transform ordinary accumulated materials into intriguing visual and physical installations. Choosing a single object or material, such as transparent drinking straws, scotch tape, styrofoam cups, or toothpicks, Donovan experiments with assembling them in different configurations. In 2007, Donovan created a 50 x 60 foot installation using over three million seven-ounce plastic drinking cups in rows of differing heights to create a serene and eerie icy landscape. She has also hot-glued thousands of plastic cups into a massive hive hanging from the ceiling, glued buttons into a steep mountain topology reminiscent of peaks seen in Chinese art, glued together hundreds of white paper plates, arranged tarpaper into rippling black landscapes, and arranged silver straight pins and toothpicks into perfect cubes (using no glue).
Donovan also acknowledges art historical figures as important: "Eva Hesse is someone I have always studied and respected. The idiosyncratic nature of her processes has certainly informed aspects of my own practice. LeWitt's articulation of rules for constructing work is a methodology I have incorporated into my practice. I do, however, feel indebted to artists such as Robert Irwin or James Turrell, who attempt to construct an evolving phenomenological experience in time and space with their work." The curvilinear forms of Donovan's Untitled (2009) are readily comparable to Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #999 (2001) that can be seen in the windows of the second floor of the Lever House from the outdoor plaza.
Donovan observes: "My investigations with materials address a specific trait that is unique to each material√¢?¬¶. in a sense, I develop a dialogue with each material that dictates the forms that develop. With every new material comes a specific repetitive action."
Tara Donovan was born in New York City in 1969, and studied at the School of Visual Arts, New York; Corcoran College of Art and Design, Washington DC (BFA, 1991); and Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia (MFA, 1999). She has had major exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, recently organized a retrospective exhibition that will tour to museums in Cincinnati, Des Moines, and San Diego through 2009. The artist is represented by PaceWildenstein, New York. Tara Donovan lives and works in Brooklyn.
Richard D. Marshall, Curator
Work in the exhibition:
Transparent polyester film (2,500 pounds); painted wood display structure, 14 feet 6 inches high x 29 feet wide x 29 inches deep; with open inset, 48 inches high x 23 feet wide x 29 inches deep
Lever House Art Collection, New York
√Ç¬© Tara Donovan, courtesy PaceWildenstein, New York