The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego will present an exhibition of sculptural installations by artist Tara Donovan at its downtown Jacobs Building location from October 25, 2009 through February 28, 2010. Organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, this is the first major museum survey of Donovan’s work, and MCASD is the only West Coast venue for the exhibition.
Tara Donovan, Untitled (detail), 2008. Installed at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (October 10, 2008–January 4, 2009). Photo by Dennis Cowley / Courtesy PaceWildenstein, New York. Artwork © Tara Donovan
Featuring sculptures and installations from the past decade, Tara Donovan traces the ambitious process of this young artist. With acute awareness of the aesthetic and physical properties of the materials she uses, Donovan takes mass quantities of a single everyday item — tape, plastic cups, straws, pins, 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 named the artist a recipient of one of its 2008 “genius” grants.
Donovan’s work is particularly well-suited to the expansive spaces and exceptional natural light conditions of the Museum’s downtown Jacobs Building. In her work, she combines contradictory properties in commonplace materials — the manufactured and the natural, the familiar and the otherworldly — to dazzling effect. The materials are stacked, clustered, looped, twisted — often arranged in a manner that sometimes mimics the organization of geological or biological forms, yet seems to defy the laws of nature. Through this subtle and remarkably affecting presentation, drinking straws may suggest clouds and plastic cups may call to mind a brittle winter landscape. Part of the intrigue of Donovan’s practice lies in the way she is able to present a mass of unaltered, simple objects that do not disguise what they are while simultaneously suggesting a range of richly poetic associations.
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-responsive.” In Haze (2003), a work recently acquired for MCASD’s collection through a grant from The Annenberg Foundation, Donovan assembled thousands and thousands of clear plastic drinking straws against the walls, open end forward, turning a gallery into an undulating space of indeterminate color. Another work in MCASD’s collection that will be on view, Untitled (Pins), (2004) is comprised of thousands of nickel-plated steel straight pins held together by gravity and friction, densely packed into a cube.
Organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, this is the first major museum survey of Donovan’s work. The San Diego presentation of Tara Donovan is organized by MCASD Senior Curator Dr. Stephanie Hanor.