Worker bee TARA DONOVAN IS A ONE WOMAN HIVE OF INDUSTRY
Ace Galle ry
At first sight Donovan's Untitled (paper plates)– a honeycombed and
concertinaed structure that opens out to create a series of orbs, installed at floor
level – is an interesting exercise in form and volume. Collectively these objects
inhabit the space with a pleasing sense of containment, poise and finite finesse.
The crusty, crunchy material from which they are formed, and the familiarity
of the pleating and construction – reminiscent of paper lanterns – are captivating.
Colouration is cool, pale beige and white, and this contributes to an attractive
reserve and quietness. A second work, placed overhead as a series of bulbous
forms composed of repeating circles of white on white patterning in a white
translucent material, is another pleasing hive-like form, with both regimented and
organized patterning and an organic irregularity of formation had the charm and
interest of overlapping clouds.
Tara Donovan's credentials are impressive. Born in 1969, she lives in New
York City, and has had solo exhibitions at Ace Gallery, New York and Los Angeles,
at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, at Akira Ikeda Gallery, Berlin, and
at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, Washington DC. Donovan's interest is
in material growth via accumulation and repetition. Her focus is on innate materi
ality, with a phenomenological approach, that seeks to evolve form and structure
out of cellular multiple matter, “It is not like I'm trying to simulate nature,” she
explains “it's more of a mimicking of the way of nature, the way things actually
grow.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines phenomenology as “the
study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of
view” and expands this explanation to include “the study of "phenomena":
appearances of things, or things as they appear in our experience, or the ways we
experience things, thus the meanings things have in our experience.” There are
echoes of Eva Hesse here, and connections to Susie MacMurray's work, although
Donovan's pieces seem more controlled with a keen undertone of urban banality.
This 'Big Apple ennui' emanates from her use in other works of common and
everyday materials – sticking tape, paper plates, styrofoam cups, clear plastic
drinking straws, pins and toothpicks. The use and transformation of utilitarian
materials initiated in Duchamp's 'readymades' finds contemporary expression in
Donovan's work, but where Duchamp was innovative and boundary-challenging,
similar work produced decades later can seem contrived and tedious. The
Duchampian reconstitution of the relationship of art and everyday life outraged
systems of class, object hierarchy and conventions of decency but subsequent
waves of practice that have looked and looked again at contemporary artifacts
as signs of capitalist disposability can seem a little tired. The initial interest that
Donovan's works elicits is transposed into a vague irritation and a desire for
something less reserved.