I have one word to describe Tara Donovan‘s exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver: mind-blowing. I happened to be visiting family in Denver and was told by an artist friend to make sure I saw Donovan’s show while I was there. As is often the case, I have to drag my family to museums on occasion – they humor me – but this time they thanked me!
Donovan’s work will capture anyone’s attention by the mere fact that she uses mundane, everyday materials as her medium – plastic straws, index cards, rubber bands, Slinkys, and Mylar, to name a few. What she does with those materials is genius and completely inspiring. She reconstructs the material into both two-dimensional and three-dimensional works, redefining their original function by creating beautiful, organic forms.
The first question I wanted to answer as I approached every piece of Donovan’s work was, “what is that?” Sometimes I had to get right up close to find out – oh my gosh, that’s not a floating cloud, those are straws, thousands of straws!
And are those some sort of computer-generated stalagmites?
Actually, no, those forms are made from individually stacked index cards.
Wow, and did she excavate part of a shale formation from a hillside somewhere? No, actually she built this massive sculpture – on site – out of layers of torn tar paper.
Donovan’s Slinky exploration morphed from this shallow-depth wall sculpture,
to this 2-D mono print,
to another room-sized sculpture.
I could have stayed in the room containing her Composition Card series for hours. Having spent part of my career creating patterns for printed textiles, I was completely captivated by how she ordered and structured these framed works.
This detail shows how she created the designs by building up areas of less or more density of the cards.
This one reminded me of a weaving.
Next came the Mylar, sea-creature room (my interpretation). If the museum staff had not been so attentive, I would have taken the opportunity to lie down underneath this behemoth and take it in from the ground up. Alas, I was well-behaved.
Around the corner was a series of mono prints, again, using inked up everyday materials. This one used rubber bands to create these wonderful flower shapes.
The final room contained her pin drawings. These large, framed pieces were fashioned out of thousands of nickel-plated dress pins that had been hammered into pin board in varying densities. I was immediately reminded of Agnes Martin‘s works on paper – another favorite artist of mine.
I didn’t want the exhibit to end, but I’m not sure how much more I could have absorbed in one go.