Tara Donovan: Drawings
October 25, 2003 - November 29, 2003

Artist Biography


Articles/Reviews
Double feature / Plain Dealer

Double feature Up-and-coming New Yorker has two shows here

 

The Plain Dealer

Nov 27, 2003

 

Dan Tranberg

 

One of the first lessons an art student learns is that harmony within a composition is achieved though a repetition of similar shapes. Thats one reason that the work of New York artist Tara Donovan is so beautiful; every piece is made by repeating a single shape over and over and over again.

 

But Donovans work, which can be seen currently at both Shaheen Modern and Contemporary Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, isnt all that simple. Using a wide range of materials, such as plastic drinking straws, toothpicks, pencils and electrical tape, she creates forms that take on the characteristics of fantastic organic structures, often resembling honeycombs or natural sponges.

 

Rejecting the traditional notion of the artists personal mark, she makes things that almost look as if they were born in the sea and then washed ashore.

 

Donovans show at Shaheen is made up entirely of two-dimensional work. A gorgeous series of small pieces, each about 1 foot square, is created by layering small white stickers in serpentine rows that twist and turn on themselves. Theyre like abstract snakeskins, pressed behind glass.

 

A group of much larger works reveals elaborate networks of pale blue circles on rigid cardboard panels. Looking like petrified sea foam, they appear to have been created by a mystical process in which bluish bubbles dry up and evaporate, leaving only their outlines on the stark white panels.

 

The most ambitious works at Shaheen are done with black ballpoint pen on large sheets of white paper. From a distance, they are like images of fungus or barnacles. Up close, you can see that each rounded shape is made from rows of endless uniform circles.

 

Donovan is a native New Yorker who studied at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Born in 1969, she is among the rising stars of her generation. In the past few years, shes had solo exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles and Washington and was featured in the 2000 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Currently, she also has a solo exhibition at the Rice Museum in Houston; next year, she is scheduled to have a solo show at the Akira Ikeda Gallery in Berlin.

 

Donovans show at MOCA Cleveland is the first in the museums new Curve Series, named for the Rotunda Gallery at the back of the complex. Midway through each of the museums main exhibition seasons, it plans to open a Curve exhibition, featuring a site-specific work by an exciting new artist. Donovan is well-chosen to inaugurate the series. Though her piece was constructed largely off-site in her Brooklyn studio (with the help of four gallery assistants), its a prime example of her sculptural work and seems right at home in the circular gallery.

 

On first glance, the untitled piece recalls dozens of bulbous sea creatures trapped in an expanse of fine netting. Actually, the entire sculpture is constructed from fluted paper plates. As with much of Donovans work, the plates are used to construct a module, or singular unit, which is then repeated many times to make the final form.

 

Because Donovan used paper plates of two slightly different colors, a subtle shift in hue occurs across the surface of the whole piece, such as the mottled markings of an animals skin.

 

Through both exhibitions, its easy to get a sense of Donovan as an artist who functions as a sort of magician, transforming humble and relatively meaningless units into extraordinary creations that evoke natural wonders.

Tara Donovan
Untitled, 2002
ballpoint pen on paper
72 x 59 inches

Tara Donovan
Untitled, 2003
ballpoint pen on paper
72 x 59 inches


Tara Donovan
Detail of Untitled Ballpoint Pen Drawing, 2002
ballpoint pen on paper


Tara Donovan
Detail of Untitled Bubble Drawing, 2003
ink on foamcore



Tara Donovan
installation view, 2003



Tara Donovan
Untitled, 2003
ink on foamcore
48 x 48 inches


Tara Donovan
Untitled, 2003
ink on foamcore
48 x 48 inches