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First Major Museum Survey of Tara Donovan Opens at ICA/Boston
Tara Donovan, Untitled (Styrofoam Cups), 2003, Styrofoam cups and hot glue. Dimensions variable, Installation view, Ace Gallery, Los Angeles, 2005. Photo credit: Ace Gallery, Los Angeles, Courtesy PaceWildenstein, New York.

BOSTON, MA.- The first museum survey of American sculptor Tara Donovan opens Oct. 10th at The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Featuring 17 sculptures and installations from the past decade including a new work created for the exhibition, Tara Donovan traces the ambitious process of this young artist. With acute awareness of the aesthetic properties of her materials, Donovan takes mass quantities of everyday items—tape, plastic cups, toothpicks, buttons—and “assembles them in different ways, providing the viewer with a compelling, perceptually transformative experience,” according to The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which recently named the artist a recipient of this year’s so-called “genius” grants. On view at the ICA from Oct. 10, 2008 to Jan. 4, 2009, Tara Donovan then travels to the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati (Feb. 7–May 11, 2009), the Des Moines Arts Center (June 19–Sept. 13, 2009) and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (Oct. 10, 2009–Jan. 16, 2010).

“This groundbreaking exhibition of Tara Donovan’s sculpture is a timely opportunity to experience Donovan’s evolution as an artist and brings needed scholarship to her artistic practice,” says Jill Medvedow, Director of The Institute of Contemporary Art.

“Donovan has an exceptional understanding of how individual items can confound and astound when configured en masse,” according to the ICA’s Nicholas Baume and Jen Mergel, co-curators of the exhibition. “She installs her configurations with great sensitivity to the fusion between material, light and architecture, achieving effects that approach the sublime.”

Donovan’s artistic process explores how a single action applied to a single material countless times can transcend our expectations. In Untitled (Plastic Cups), Donovan stacks over a million plastic cups within a rectangular perimeter to create what resembles an undulating sea. Although presented in a grid, a system Minimalist artists of the 1960s used for its rational geometric order, Donovan’s cups defy containment. Instead, the artist’s simple system of stacking unleashes the possibility for limitless reproduction and expansion. In this way, Donovan’s work seems to evoke our own era of infinite digital and cellular networks whose exact proportions are boundless and unknowable.

Donovan’s sculptures are often deliberately integrated with their architectural setting, expanding or contracting according to the exhibition space in a manner the artist terms “site-reponsive”. In Untitled (2008)—the artist’s newest major installation commissioned by the ICA—a wall separating two of the ICA’s galleries, has been cut and filled with thousands of feet of clear polyester sheeting rhythmically folded and layered upon itself. Donovan specifically sited the piece within this wall to allow natural light from Boston Harbor and incandescent light from the gallery to filter through both sides of the transparent plastic form.

From toothpick cubes to Mylar constellations, Donovan’s work combines contradictory properties in commonplace materials—the manufactured and the natural, the familiar and the otherworldly—to dazzling effect. As artist Chuck Close was recently quoted as saying, “[Tara’s] material never stops being what it is, and yet it builds into an amazing apparition.”—Vogue.

Born in 1969 in New York, NY, Tara Donovan has had solo exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY (2007), the Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO (2006), and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA (2004), among others. Her work was featured in the 2000 Whitney Biennial and she was the recipient of the MacArthur “genius” grant in 2008, and the Alexander Calder Foundation’s first annual Calder Prize (2005). She received her MFA in Sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA (1999). Donovan lives and works in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The exhibition and publication were generously supported by Chuck and Kate Brizius and Barbara Lee.

Tour Venues - Following the ICA, Tara Donovan travels to the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati (Feb. 7-May 11, 2009), the Des Moines Arts Center (June 19 - Sept. 13, 2009) and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (Oct. 10, 2009 - Jan. 16, 2010).

Publication - The ICA exhibition is accompanied by the publication, Tara Donovan, a comprehensive 160-page monograph co-published by The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, and The Monacelli Press/Random House, New York. Contents include an introductory essay by ICA associate curator Jen Mergel and ICA chief curator Nicholas Baume; a conversation between Tara Donovan and Lawrence Weschler; an afterword by ICA director Jill Medvedow, and approximately 70 reproductions of all of Donovan’s works to date.

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