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Exhibition reexamines Tara Donovan's seminal Composition (Cards) series
Tara Donovan, Composition (Cards), 2020. Styrene cards and glue, 39-1/4" x 59-1/4" x 4". © Tara Donovan, courtesy Pace Gallery.

PALM BEACH, FLA.- Pace Gallery is presenting a solo exhibition of work by Tara Donovan which reexamines the artist’s seminal Composition (Cards) series at the gallery’s outpost in Palm Beach. Ethereal, illusive pieces made from styrene index cards, the five sculptural paintings on view exemplify Donovan’s unique approach to artmaking, a generative process in which she incrementally and cumulatively shapes her work. Collectively, Donovan’s practice is characterized by her ongoing exploration of the aesthetic potential of her chosen media as well as her formidable capacity to challenge and play with the limits of perception. Coming on the heels of Donovan’s solo exhibition of recent work at Pace’s New York headquarters, this is the process-based artist’s debut show at the gallery’s South Florida location and runs from April 15 – May 28, 2021.

Since the early 2000s, Donovan has created sculptures and installation works through the rigorous accumulation, arrangement, and repetition of mass-produced, banal materials such as drinking straws, Styrofoam cups, rubber bands, or Scotch tape. Donovan works systematically with large quantities of these quotidian objects, leveraging the material properties of the items to build sublime atmospheric structures that play with light, color, texture, and translucence in an exploration of the innumerable ways in which a medium can behave. The subtle yet powerful perceptual shifts that characterize Donovan’s work align her with the Californian Light and Space artists, while her sustained emphasis on process, pattern, and seriality situates her in conversation with the Postminimalists. Ultimately, her distinctive work is elusive, resistant to categorization, and transcendent in its ability to activate, drive, and shape experience between viewers, their environment, and one another.

Extending upon the artist’s core interest in investigating aggregative procedures using a singular material, the wallmounted Composition (Cards) works explore stratification as both a sculptural technique and a means to construct a two-dimensional picture plane. Variously evoking topographical maps, weavings, landscape paintings, and geometric designs, these pieces—which Donovan has described as “sculptural paintings” that function outside of classical divisions between media—comprise stacked styrene cards laid on their sides to look like vertical lines. Working from freehand templates, she laboriously and incrementally stacks the cards, actively improvising to shape the unique spaces between each individual unit, and ultimately producing relief-style abstractions that exude liveliness, rich in the illusion of dimensionality and movement.

Collectively, the Composition (Cards) are characterized by a proliferation of intricate patterns with lenticular or holographic effects, marked by subtle shifts in pattern and texture established through their interplay between positive and negative spaces, as the viewer’s eye moves or the light changes. The works—combining the linearity of drawing, the materiality of painting, and the volumetric capabilities of sculptur —amply demonstrate Donovan’s talent for coaxing an almost otherworldly beauty from seemingly mundane materials in an embodiment of optimized perception.

Donovan was recently the subject of a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver in 2019. Tara Donovan: Fieldwork then traveled to the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago.

Tara Donovan (b. 1969, New York) creates large-scale installations, sculptures, drawings, and prints, utilizing everyday objects to explore the transformative effects of accumulation and aggregation. By identifying and exploiting the usually overlooked physical properties of modest, mass-produced goods, Donovan creates ethereal works that challenge our perceptual habits and preconceptions. The atmospheric effects of her art align her with Light and Space artists, such as Robert Irwin and James Turrell, while her commitment to a laborious and site-responsive methodology links her to Postminimalist and Process artists, especially Eva Hesse, Jackie Winsor, Richard Serra, and Robert Morris. She has had major survey exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, which was also on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, and Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, as well as a string of solo projects at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, UCLA’s Hammer Museum, the Berkeley Art Museum, Smart Museum of Art, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Milwaukee Art Museum, Parrish Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, among others.

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