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Tara Donovan casts spells on her materials and on our senses
Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2008. Polyester film, installation dimensions variable. Photo by: Dennis Cowley / Courtesy Pace Gallery.

HUMLEBAEK.- The material is the most important starting point for American artist Tara Donovan (1969), an exhibition of whose work Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is showing as part of the series Louisiana Contemporary. The exhibition at the museum is the first showing of the artist’s works in Europe. Donovan knows from innumerable experiments what materials can be used for. She has an eye for their distinctiveness and can sense their qualities, especially those that extend beyond their practical function. It is the aesthetic potential and the constructive capacity of the material and its texture that interest her and which she exploits to the full to form her unique sculptural universe.

Tara Donovan selects objects in one material which she joins together, folds, stacks or otherwise repeats.

In so doing she arrives at a form with an organic, often nature-like formal idiom created by products from our everyday life: metal film tape, drinking straws, glass, cardboard plates, buttons, etc. Donovan works almost ritualistically with the objects and dissolves one formal idiom to create a new one. In her large-format sculptural installations she accumulates hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands of identical elements to produce abstract forms that seem to be transformed into everything from clouds and corals to cell structures.

Donovan’s works are built up on the spot or carefully adapted and matched to the spaces in which they take form. They challenge our accustomed ideas of proportion and our experience and interpretation of the things we sense and navigate among. In an interview in the latest issue of Louisiana Magasin, no. 37, she says: “I am striving to be an alchemist and to transcend the material”. However, she experiments not only with the materials, but also with the human sensory system.

The exhibition presents eight of the artist’s works from the years 2004-2012, installed in the Column Hall and the Large Hall on the bottom floor of the East Wing of the museum. Sculpturally, they range from small crystalline growths to large organic landscapes with natural forms as a central reference point. But even though an organic, often nature-like formal idiom seems to be present, the works are still always open to interpretation. Donovan is very aware that she is not simulating nature. It is rather an imitation of nature’s growth principles – the way things grow – that holds her interest.

The exhibition at Louisiana has been created in collaboration with the Arp Museum, Bahnhof Rolandseck.

Tara Donovan (1969) lives in New York and has already made her mark on the art scene, most recently with a solo exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Centre Pompidou in Paris has a work by her in its collection which appeared in the exhibition “Elles” showing works by the museum’s female artists.

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