Untitled by Tara Donovan

Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2014, acrylic and adhesive, 10' 1/2" x 14' 2" x 12' 10-3/4" (306.1 cm x 431.8 cm x 393.1 cm) © Tara Donovan

Tara Donovan

Tara Donovan Portrait 2018.jpg


b. 1969, Flushing, New York

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For over twenty years, Tara Donovan has created large-scale installations, sculptures and drawings that utilize everyday objects to explore the transformative effects of accumulation and aggregation.

Known for her commitment to process, she has earned acclaim for her ability to exploit the inherent physical characteristics of an object in order to transform it into works that generate unique perceptual phenomena and atmospheric effects. 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.

Soon after receiving an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1999, she obtained her first major museum solo exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s Hemicycle Gallery in Washington, D.C. A year later, she participated in the prestigious biennial of the Whitney Museum of American Art. In the early 2000s, for her first major gallery exhibitions at Ace Gallery in New York and Los Angeles, Donovan mounted a series of site-responsive installations, which became representative of her practice. In celebrated works, most notably Transplanted (2001), Nebulous (2002), and Haze (2003), Donovan created sublime gradients of light, color, translucence, and texture using nothing but tar paper, Scotch tape, and drinking straws, respectively. Despite the artificiality of their materials, Donovan’s works often take on biomorphic qualities or evoke natural phenomena, from fog and rock formations to fungal blooms and stalagmites. Other works such as Colony (2000), which suggested urban sprawl, gestured to humankind’s mark on the world—the Anthropocene.

After her exhibitions at Ace Gallery, Donovan devoted herself to a string of solo projects at distinguished museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (2003), UCLA’s Hammer Museum (2004), the Berkeley Art Museum (2006), and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (2009) among others. For one such project, Tara Donovan at the Met (2007), she clustered loops of metallic Mylar tape into a scintillating web that proliferated across several walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Reworking the propositions of Minimalism, the artist staged a shifting phenomenological encounter that prompted visitors to circumambulate the space. Her first major survey exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, opened the subsequent year and was followed by other solo projects at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Milwaukee Art Museum, and Parrish Museum.

In 2005, Donovan joined Pace Gallery and presented a year later Tara Donovan: New Work, her first major solo exhibition with the gallery. For this show, she produced Untitled (Plastic Cups), a large-scale installation that stacked plastic cups until these formed an unworldly topography reminiscent of ocean waves or rolling hills. She now debuts most of her new projects in solo and group exhibitions at Pace and its several global locations in London, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Palo Alto.

In recent years, Donovan has employed Slinkys, styrene cards, and pins to create framed, wall-hung works, whose tactile surfaces are animated by optical effects. Operating somewhere between drawing, painting, and relief sculpture, her two series Drawings (Pins) and Compositions (Cards) are abstract works in direct dialogue with her monumental sculptures constructed out of the same materials. They continue the artist’s rigorous process of experimentation with mundane objects while expanding the possibilities of sculpture in relation to bodies, space, and time.

Donovan’s many accolades include the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award (2008); and the first annual Calder Prize (2005), among others. For over a decade, numerous museums have mounted solo exhibitions of Donovan’s work including the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (2004 and 2009); Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri (2006); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2007-08); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2008); Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana (2010); the Milwaukee Art Museum, Illinois (2012); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (2013), Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen, Germany (2014); Parrish Museum, Watermill, New York (2015); Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh, Scotland (2015); Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Colorado (2018); and the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Illinois (2019). Her work is held in the collections of major institutions such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others. The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.


Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2015, Slinky®s, 8' 2" x 26' x 1" (248.9 cm x 792.5 cm x 2.5 cm), approximately © Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan, Drawing (Pins), 2011, gatorboard, paint, and nickel-plated steel pins, 10' x 10' x 4" (304.8 cm x 304.8 cm x 10.2 cm) © Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan, Drawing (Pins), 2012, gatorboard, paint, and nickel-plated steel pins, 36" x 36" x 2-1/2" (91.4 cm x 91.4 cm x 6.4 cm) © Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan, Composition (Cards), 2017, Styrene cards and glue, 22-1/4" × 22-1/4" × 4" (56.5 cm × 56.5 cm × 10.2 cm) © Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan, Composition (Cards), 2017, Styrene cards and glue, 22-1/4" × 22-1/4" × 4" (56.5 cm × 56.5 cm × 10.2 cm) © Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan, Untitled (Pins), 2004, straight pins, 39" x 39" x 39" (99.1 cm x 99.1 cm x 99.1 cm) © Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2014, acrylic and adhesive, 64" x 52-1/2" x 41-1/4" (162.6 cm x 133.4 cm x 104.8 cm) © Tara Donovan